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 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. His respect for people and place never sounds sentimental or dated.
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," which will appeal to every lover of his work.
James Still, the first poet laureate of Kentucky, recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and many other awards and honors, is the author of numerous works, including his masterful novel River of Earth.
Ted Olson, associate professor of Appalachian studies and English at East Tennessee State University, is the author of Blue Ridge Folklife and the editor of CrossRoads: A Southern Culture Annual.
"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