Piercing the Veil: Appalachian Visions by Greg Clary and Byron Hoot provides a panorama of place, people, and interpretation through the eyes of Clary and the words of Hoot.
Clary and Hoot were born and raised in West Virginia. Both were marked deeply by the physical and emotional landscapes they were born in and have never spiritually left. These are photo ekphrastic poems—photos prompting the poems by capturing the natural art of reality in an instant. Provocative. Unexpected. Like life.
An area often stereotyped, Appalachia is painted here as unique, provocative, sometimes ordinary, and always unexpected. From the foreword: “I was a little unnerved thinking someone could look into my life/ and wonder what I’ve done with it,” writes Byron Hoot in response to Greg Clary’s photo that ‘penetrates the veil’ of a run-down shack somewhere in the middle of the woods.
The photographer, through his trained and alert eye, preserves the often ignored, what we too-often avoid or pass through traveling somewhere else. The poet looks deeply into the photograph, and, as only a language at once beautiful and insightful can do, fashions for us a fresh way of experiencing it.
Throughout this invaluable collection, Clary’s photos and Hoot’s poems accomplish that rare and lucky phenomenon of artistic collaboration, their independent muses somehow tapping into a mutual recognition, inspired by the same sources, offering us multi-faceted ways of experiencing these real places, like Sligo, PA and Jackson County, West Virginia, and revealing their hidden spirits. They are forms of worship. For the photographer, a truck is captured through thin branches which, for the poet, is “an abandoned monument.”
What Clary and Hoot have accomplished is, indeed, monumental: transforming their sacred encounters into tenderly textured images and words. Clary and Hoot aren’t going somewhere else: they’re stopping, looking, synthesizing, tenderly absorbing, revealing—and therefore celebrating– what we only notice. They “stop, linger/perhaps seeing ghosts/or hearing voices having something to say.” What have they done with their lives? Well, they’ve pierced these veils. They’ve woken us up.”
— Philip Terman, author of Our Portion: New and Selected Poems