First published in 1937, Hounds on the Mountain evokes James Still's personal experiences of eastern Kentucky through reflective folk poems describing Appalachian mountain life from birth through death. Written during the Great Depression, the collection emphasizes a collective reliance on the earth and the primacy of nature that Still observed from the seclusion of his thirty-acre home in Knott County, Kentucky.
Still, who became known as the "Dean of Appalachian Literature," describes the changing landscape of his community as a tale of personal and environmental erosion. As the poet pleads for his readers to better protect this fragile ecosphere, he plants the seeds for his rise to literary eminence. Still's focus on the self-made authenticity of regional community artisans also reminded American readers during the Great Depression that local economies needed support, the same as those at the national and global levels. Hounds on the Mountain allows today's audiences to appreciate Still's first published book as both literature and as a treasured cultural symbol of Appalachian life then and now.