During a recent visit to Half Price Books, I discovered one of the treasures I had been searching for: The Wolfpen Poems by James Still. For those unfamiliar with his work, James Still was an Appalachian author and a part of the Southern literary renaissance that began during the Great Depression. He is most well-known for his novel, River of Earth, which has been classed with Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath as one of the best representations of Depression-era life. However, he was also an exceptional poet. When I was in Junior High, he visited my school and shared some of his work. His presentation made an impression on me and may very well have been one of the influences that sparked my own interest in writing poetry.
In reading his poems, I feel such a kinship with him. His words echo some of the cries of my heart, yet in a richness that I could never express. It is difficult to choose my favorites from among his poems, but at the moment, "Heritage", "I Was Born Humble", and "Infare" are the uppermost in my mind. All this reveling in the poetry of James Still, made me decide to write a tribute to him. This just a start, but here it is:
Still, James Still:
with such a name
one would think him destined
to work the copper kettle.
Yet, though his steps turned
toward the thunder road,
his communion with the moon
brought forth a different draught
one which heightened his soul's
perception and called him to
remain in the land of his sojourning.
So he remained,
forsaking modern convenience
to sit in stillness, watching the
smoke of the mountains, listening
to the throb of the universe.