From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems / Edition 1

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James Still first achieved national recognition in the 1930s as a poet. Although he is better known today as a writer of fiction, it is in his poetry that many of his essential images, such as the "mighty river of earth," first found expression. Yet much of his poetry remains out of print or difficult to find. From the Mountain, From the Valley collects all of Still's poems, including several never before published, and corrects editorial mistakes that crept into previous collections. The poems are presented in chronological order, allowing the reader to trace the evolution of Still's voice. Throughout, his language is fresh and vigorous and his insight profound. Ted Olson's introduction recounts Still's early literary career and explores the poetic origins of his acclaimed lyrical prose. Still himself has contributed the illuminating autobiographical essay "A Man Singing to Himself," filled with poignant and humorous reminiscences.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
In the '30s and '40s, James Still published poetry and fiction in every major literary venue, but his death this year went virtually unnoticed everywhere but Kentucky, where he was the poet laureate. The slight is unfortunate because Still was in many ways one of the founders of Appalachian studies. Born in 1906 on an Alabama cotton farm, Still eventually began teaching in eastern Kentucky, where he found a home and a subject that would occupy his life. Still recorded "living language" and found that poetry was in the air around him. The power of his work is expressed in the images and the sounds of Appalachian folk speech. Still's book recalls readers to the rich texture of sounds that constitute the English language in America.
—Stephen Whited

From the Publisher

"Still's is the distinctive voice of Appalachia, and we are most fortunate to have his best work in this single beautiful volume." -- Frederick Smock, in the Louisville Courier-Journal

"Still works in traditional lyric forms and with traditional lyric tools. Rarely does a poem need a second page. The best poems are tight and demonstrate a quiet mastery, even a humble virtuosity." -- Journal of Appalachian Studies

"Offers the opportunity to look back and examine and appreciate the work of a man widely regarded as one of the masters of Appalachian literature." -- Journal of Appalachian Studies

"Only a poet of considerable ability can speak so clearly and eloquently, reminding one of what one already knows, has -- perhaps -- experienced and half forgotten, adding new insights to one's experience of the world." -- Journal of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society

"The true value of this book is to reintroduce a modern readership to Still's poetry on its own terms." -- Kentucky Monthly

"James Still is one of our greatest American poets. In particular he has captured the spirit and language of the Appalachian South -- his own beloved patch of ground in eastern Kentucky -- like no other. He is a writer of passion and principle whose poems remain fresh and vivid, stirring the soul." -- Lee Smith

"Any Kentuckian who reads should own this book. It is a book about us, who we were and who we are, and a book about the dark and lovely place where we live." -- Lexington Herald-Leader

"The best poetry lingers in your soul like the tone after the final chime of a great bell. James Still, who adopted Kentucky as his home early in the 1930s and became its first poet laureate, left us with enduring notes in the collection From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems." -- Louisville Courier-Journal

"Still says so much is already written on the natural parchment of leaves that he can but fold his hands and sink his knees into the leaf-pages, but the pages of his poetry revitalize nature and communicate what mere physical reality cannot." -- Magill's Literary Annual 2002

"My choice for book of the year. Still's poetry is a literary response to all the questions of living and dying. His poetry is lyrical and deeply emotional. It is firmly grounded in the natural world, especially the mountains and streams, the birds and trees and rocks and animals of eastern Kentucky." -- Maysville Ledger-Independent

"One of our greatest American poets for almost sixty years, James Still (1906-2001) was the voice of Appalachia." -- McCormick (SC) Messenger

"If you are not impressed -- if you are new to Still and you're not astonished -- then possibly literature isn't your strong suit after all." -- Oxford American

"Shines with his homespun humanity and eastern Kentucky roots. The 123 poems offer a wisdom, humor, and language that Still so fluidly delivers." -- Troublesome Creek Times

"The work of a man accomplished in gentleness, humorousness, compassion, and clarity." -- Wendell Berry

"This book is a clear candidate for the most outstanding single book of poetry ever to emerge from the Appalachian region." -- Appalachian Heritage

"The volume clearly provides us with a valuable perspective on the man, his works, and his world." -- Appalachian Heritage

"This volume provides a carefully edited, beautifully presented retrospective of his life and poetry, one which will appeal to general readers and will provide material for students and scholars, memories for friends and admirers, and meaningful echoes for all residents of Appalachia." -- Appalachian Journal

"Still demonstrates equal ability to write with precision, beauty, and technique, and perhaps, with more consistency, which is what makes this collection quite remarkable." -- Appalachian Life Magazine

"He gave voice to the people of eastern Kentucky." -- Appalachian Quarterly

"With its unabashed lyricism, Still's work chronicles his transcendence among the mountaineers, their culture, struggles, and land." -- Bloomsbury Review

"The power of his work is expressed in the images and the sounds of Appalachian folk speech. Still's book recalls readers to the rich texture of sounds that constitute the English language in America." -- Book

""The best poetry lingers in your soul like the tone after the final chime of a great bell. James Still, who adopted Kentucky as his home early in the 1930s and became its first poet laureate, left us with enduring notes in the collection edited by Ted Olson...."" -- Louisville Courier-Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813191324
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,312,824
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Table of Contents

A man singing to himself : an autobiographical essay by James Still 5
Dreams 27
Burned tree 28
Fallow years 29
The bright road 30
Artifacts 31
Answer 32
Let this hill rest 33
Lambs 34
Swift were their feet 35
Wilderness 36
Dulcimer 37
Horse swapping 38
Mountain fox hunt 39
Infare 40
When the dulcimers are gone 41
Reckoning 42
Heritage 43
Death on the mountain 44
Shield of hills 45
Uncle Ambrose 46
Clabe Mott 47
The hill-born 48
Aftergrass 49
Child in the hills 50
Passenger pigeons 51
Farm 52
Fox hunt on Defeated Creek 53
Foal 54
Post offices 55
Earth-bread 56
On Troublesome Creek 57
Interval 58
Graveyard 59
Tracks on stone 60
Coal town 61
Fiddlers' convention on Troublesome Creek 62
Journey beyond the hills 63
Rain on the Cumberlands 64
Dance on pushback 65
I was born humble 67
On Redbird Creek 68
Pattern for death 69
Yesteryear's people 70
A hillsman speaks 71
Spring 72
Hounds on the mountain 73
Horseback in the rain 74
With hands like leaves 75
River of earth 76
White highways 77
Court day 78
On double creek 79
Night in the coal camps 80
Epitaph for Uncle Ira Combs, mountain preacher 81
Nixie Middleton 82
Come down from the hills 83
Eyes in the grass 84
On Buckhorn Creek 85
Year of the pigeons 86
Where the mares have fed 88
A man singing to himself 89
Now has day come 90
I shall go singing 91
Leap, minnows, leap 92
Morning : dead mare branch 93
A child's wisdom 94
Banjo Bill Cornett 95
Fiddle 96
Mountain men are free 97
Hill-lonely 98
Death in the hills 99
This man dying 100
Granny frolic 101
Passing of a county sheriff 102
Drought 103
Apples 104
The broken ibis 105
Early whippoorwill 106
Abandoned house 107
Wolfpen Creek 108
Apple trip 109
Funnel spider 110
The trees in the road 111
Lamp 112
Man o'war 113
Lizard 114
On being drafted into the U.S. Army from my log home in March 1942 115
Candidate 116
Winter tree 117
"Welcome, somewhat, despite the disorder" 118
Of the wild man 119
Day of flowers 120
Hunter 121
Are you up there, bad Jack? 122
Visitor 123
The common crow 124
After some twenty years attempting to describe a flowering branch of redbud 125
On the passing of my brother Alfred 126
What have you heard lately? 127
Madly to learn 128
High field 129
Unemployed coal miner 130
Apples in the well 131
Death of a fox 132
In my dreaming 133
Here in my bed 134
Yesterday in Belize 135
Artist 136
Of the faithful 137
Knife trader 138
Truck driver 139
Okra king 140
Could it be 141
Of concern 142
Dove 143
Here and now 144
Mine is a wide estate 145
My aunt Carrie 146
Mrs. Lloyd, her bag sale 147
Recollection 148
At year's end 149
Those I want in heaven with me should there be such a place 150
My days 151
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