The Strawberry Moon

by Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN 978-0-9861789-1-7

Native Americans named the first full moon of the month after the primary characteristic of that month.  Strawberries are the earliest fruit to ripen, thus the name of the moon.  On June 20, 2016, the summer solstice and the full moon coincided, the first time that has happened since 1948. In England, the strawberry moon is called the rose moon. In China, it’s called the lotus moon.

Letters to Buddha

by Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-9-7

Is it possible to claim, mystically, that the phenomenal world is holy?  No, not if “holy” we mean that the phenomenal world is dedicated to God.  Is it possible to claim, mystically, that the phenomenal world is the source of our compassion?  No, not if by compassion we mean concern and pity for others.  Is it possible to claim, mystically, that the experience of enlightenment reveals to us a new meaning for reality?  No, not if by enlightenment we mean an experience which is ineffable, an experience of meaningless meaning.  Where, then, so holiness and compassion come from?  They come from our suffering.  And what is the point of enlightenment if it is an experience of meaninglessness?  The point is freedom and ecstasy and joy.

Ghost Dance Poems

Edwina Pendarvis

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9861789-0-0

With a title that pays homage to the Native American Ghost Dance movements of the mid- and late-19th century, this collection questions (and manifests) the age-old human tendency to call on history and magic for rescue from the apparently hopeless mess of the present. The poems comment on our shared means of connecting with powers larger than ourselves: fairy tales and other fantasies to bolster our spirits and to stave off evil—our own and others’; the games we run to exploit others or to survive exploitation; and perplexing riddles about human nature and our mostly unknowable motives. 

Poems: What Love Is

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9768817-8-0

In Poems: What Love Is, the style shifts from what can be best described as performance pieces--Appalachian folk voices which an audience can respond to the humor of--then formal poems--often ballad-like, and rhymed and unrhymed shorter pieces, which are subtler and more subjective in tone.  The subject is love in its many guises: romantic, filial, parental, intellectual and mystical.  The need for love, and its often unrequited consequences, is the subject of Poems: What Love Is.

Twofold Consciousness: Poetry and Essays on Mysticism

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-7-3

After 2,500 years, Buddha’s silence on the question of metaphysical absolutes—are there meanings of reality transcendent of the material one—still lingers as a haunting fear that he was silent because he was kind enough (or wise enough) not to tell his followers that there are no transcendent meanings, that to know ultimate reality is to experience the meaningless meaning of the physical world, including ourselves as participants in it.

That meaninglessness is the premise on which the poems and essays in Twofold Consciousness are based.  The poems, though with intellectual content enough, are an emotional response to the condition of self-conscious estrangement from the un-self-conscious universe, while the essays are a further exploration of the self as opposed to the Buddhist no-self—a distinction between consciousness and self-consciousness, which Buddhism isn’t clear about—self-consciousness as an illusory epiphenomenon of language—and the consideration that material reality is made tolerable by the ecstasy of the enlightened experience (an experience of noumenal reality), and by the compassion rising out of meaninglessness.

The phrase, twofold consciousness—in addition to the obvious distinction between poetry and prose—refers to our two states of consciousness—a mystical reality in which the self and all of life are affirmed, and an existential reality of self-conscious alienation, suffering and death, a reality made bearable by compassion.

Brother and Sister: A Memoir

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-6-6

I wrote Brother and Sister: A Memoir with so much fiction in it that I decided, if the characters weren’t real, they certainly ought to be,  so I chose the genre of the memoir as the method of presentation. The characters are fictional to the degree of exaggeration associated with the comic novel and farcical melodrama. They are realistic as sociological composites of traits associated with the laboring class in Appalachia.

 After I finished the book, I asked myself a simple question: why would anybody want to read a fake memoir about semi-literate, working-class people in a decaying rust-belt town along the  Ohio River?  The answer came to me :  the book is really funny!  How  could characters like Wayne, Nancy and Rose bear the tribulations of  life without the laughter of its absurdities. Laughter is a costless liberation, and so is their humanity, their loyalty and affection.

Raft Tide and Railroad: How We Lived and Died

Edwina Pendarvis

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-4-2

Raft Tide and Railroad is a rich collage of history, 
memories, and stories of an Appalachian family’s 
experiences in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia 
during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries…
including that of a horse-breeding coal-baron uncle…
            David C. Duke
            author of Writers and Miners: Activism
            and Imagery in America

Her retelling of a family’s history fashions a  patchwork of voices, letters, tales, and a life- altering tragedy—the murder of her maternal grandmother…and the resilience of her relatives,  especially Donald Johnson, who was only eleven  years old when his mother was killed in 1945.            

             Laura Treacy Bentley             

             author of Lake Effect

Tragic, funny, and thoughtful, Raft Tide and Railroad is a fine addition to Appalachian memoir.
            Jeff Mann
            author of Loving Mountains, Loving Men

House of the Moon: A Novel

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-3-5

Publisher’s Note:

    I personally know very little about Vasek Drobny.  He telephoned, I suppose, because I am the publisher of books related to Appalachia and he needed someone with whom he could entrust his manuscript.  He asked if we could meet in the park, by the fountain.  He would be wearing a brown driving cap.  Unable to resist a mystery, I agreed.  On that bright autumn day, the ancient trees in the park were achingly beautiful—the cochineal and vermilion, the cadmium and ocher—and the fountain, though its re-fulgent rise and fall was glitteringly undiminished, appeared to sigh in the radiance of the evening sun.  And there he was, a sack of bread in his hand, feeding the pigeons and sparrows by the lily pond.  Other than the odd cap, he was the most nondescript of men, neither dark nor fair, tall nor short, handsome nor ugly.  He was ordinary except for his eyes, which were large and brown—the color of oak leaves in October—and for his voice, which was warm and modulated, with hardly a trace of an accent.

    What little I know of his history I gained through our next few meetings.  He was born in 1933 in Prague; he attended Charles University on a scholarship; his interests were literary (he mentioned Thomas Mann, Conrad, Kafka, Austen, Proust, Henry James and Faulkner); he was so re-pulsed by Stalin that, with the initiation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, he fled Czechoslovakia, making his way through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and finally to Greece, where he gained passage to America; in Chicago he found distant relatives, but was closer to those in Pennsylvania, and even more so to those in the coal fields of West Virginia; he clerked for the De-partment of Education; and he was determined—it now being 1968—to return to Czechoslovakia so that he could further the liberation of his coun-try from Russian totalitarianism and the excesses of industrialization.

    But the point of his autobiographical revelations had to do with his novel.  While in Romania, Transylvania to be exact, he had an experience of such strangeness that it haunted him during his sojourn in America, an episode which, he said, the novel would reveal.  He handed me the manu-script and, with a sardonic smile, remarked that such a literary exercise had been a holiday, both from the tedium of clerking and from the serious issue of resisting communism in his native country.

    That first meeting occurred forty years ago, and for some reason (a minor obligation forestalled, perhaps, until almost forgotten) I never took the manuscript out of the file cabinet until last year—doing so, I think, as a way of tidying up before mortality deprived me of the chore.  I was so taken by the novel and its eccentricity that I attempted to contact Mr. Drobny and those who knew him, but without much success.  There were  language barriers on the telephone and translation problems on the inter-net.  My search led to two simple facts:  he had worked in the Ministry of Culture under President Vaclav Havel and had died in 1990.  

    After having found no relatives or kin, I assumed that giving me the manuscript was his tacit permission for publishing it, which I have now done, with the hope that his peculiar story will intrigue the reader.

-Victor Marshall Depta                          

January 1, 2008

An Afterthought of Light: Poetry

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-2-8

The fact of aging and death is so painful to contemplate that, ordinarily, one looks away, thus the final concern is resolved, if ever, at moments of crisis. In these poems, a very real effort was made to confront the subject directly, including the fear, sorrow and helplessness it brings to daily life, and whatever spiritual meaning there might be in the experiences, it is glimpsed as an afterthought of symbolic and mystical light.

Coal: A Poetry Anthology

Chris Green, Editor

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9768817-1-1

"This is an important, beautiful book, and I can't imagine how American literature has gone so long without it.”

                                                           Silas House

"This collection of poems promises to inspire thought and conversation about the complicated relationship between coal, society, and culture."

                                                            Dr. Shaunna Scott

"Although coal is dirty and ugly, this anthology is quite the opposite because it illuminates the way that the human spirit has emerged triumphant in the face of the degradation of the land and people."
                                                        George Brosi

"As soon as I read the first poems, I felt the power of the words coming from the heart of the nation."
                                                        Gurney Norman

"From heartbreaking laments to indelible character sketches and inevitably to the powerful shouts of resistance that have so defined mining culture, these poems tell stories at once ancient and terribly up-to-date about the price of ‘progress' and the cost of labor. "
                                                         Rachel Rubin

"Anyone who loves the poetry of place will find old friends and new in these pages, and will find as well the great Appalachian poets of the past resurrected."
                                                        Denise Giardina

"The poems in this collection are true-all of them. They come to us from the deep hollows and coal towns and rivers and the front porches and pool halls and coal mines in authentic and lyrical voices that will not go away."
                                                        Jack Spadaro

"The combination of work, lost land, pride, and suffering is at the core of the contradictions that animate the region's culture and the poems in this anthology."
                                                        Chris Green

The Simultaneous Mountain: Essays on Mysticism and Poetry

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9768817-0-5

Secular mysticism? Mysticism without religion? That sounds contradictory, even impious, but the idea is explored in a rational and respectful manner in The Simultaneous Mountain. Dr. Depta maintains that a human being achieves union, not with a transcendent entity but with the universe. Thus his view of mysticism is materialistic, monistic and atheistic.

Forgoing metaphor, symbol and myth, he explains the ineffable experience existentially. The center of meaning is the self-conscious individual who achieves consciousless union with the universe. Before union occurs, the individual reaches a state of "transubjectivity" (free of mental and sensory distractions) and the universe becomes "transobjective" (free of causation and contingency). 

After the ineffable union, the individual perceives that the universe has no meaning in human terms but that its "inhumanness" is the source of desirelessness and an ethical life. Liberation from want brings joy, harmony and peace. Liberation also brings the freedom to be compassionate.

The Little Henry Poems and The Dancing Dragon Poems

Victor Depta

The Dancing Dragon Poems

by Victor M. Depta

Blair Mountain Press, 2010

ISBN:  978-0-9768817-5-9

It’s not every day you come across a dancing dragon, a happy one whose felicitous ear can rhyme dragon and flagon, hopping and happening, and balderdash and bashing.  

Not only that, he’s been sighted, variously, as a goose, a skink, a flamingo, a collie and the label on a can of orange pekoe tea.  He’s an inveterate voyeur of the spiritual, a snoop and a gossip who just happens to overhear mystical conversations in the unlikeliest places, as in the dolphins’ pool at Sea World and in a monstrously big hole at Mammoth Caves.

If you like your mysticism on the wing, so to speak, then the airy dragon is a creature you can certainly turn to and trust.  If you are mystically disinclined, the rhymes and lines, the fable and the fabulous should appeal.  You might be able to recite a few of them to a child.

The Little Henry Poems

by Victor M. Depta

ISBN  0-9666608-9-7

When I think of Little Henry
I want to dance in my pants
I'm so happy
and my repertoire is sort of rappy
but I hope not sappy
or gushy
or fluffy
like I bought a new puppy
or a bowlful of guppies--
that's easy to do
because they're adorable
(grandsons, not pets)
when they drool on your chest
and your heart melts
like an old fedora
like me
in a bowlful of sugar and butter
since what could be better
baked crusty and odorous
to wear on your head
except a big, white beret of meringue
for the dear thing.

A West Virginia Trilogy

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-8-9

These three novels are the culmination of a work which was begun in 1978, after a homesick year in California where I realized that the mountains of West Virginia, and the people there, are the comfort and torment of my life. The mountains, as anyone knows who has traveled through the state, are astonishingly beautiful; they are also being decimated beyond recovery, especially in the southern counties, by the recent introduction of mountaintop removal coal mining. And the people are so formed by their environment that they have a name (hillbillies) though the word, to me, is meaningless unless it refers to coal-mining families, the industrial laborers of the mountains. For the people at home, the mountains are synonymous with coal; they have no other meaning. Thus the two (mountains and coal) are both the backdrop and the permeating influence on their lives. In various metamorphoses, those families are the subject of my trilogy.    

Like the Mountains of China

Edwina Pendarvis

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-7-0

Edwina Pendarvis is completely in the present but concerned with history, completely compassionate but tough with the clear-eyed truth, completely local but a citizen of the world. I trust this poetic voice and this vision which sees deeply into the life of the Appalachian world, human and animal, and sometimes, the divine.
        Irene McKinney, West Virginia Poet Laureate
        and editor of Backcountry: Contemporary Writing
        in West Virginia (West Virginia University Press, 2002)

Mountains and Clouds: Four Comedies

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-6-2

In the first volume, a Jewish medical student dropout from Los Angeles is inadvertently the cause of levitation, a loincloth and love in a West Virginia family. Two brothers and a sister bring to the stage their high-spirited improvisations and their desperate reality. An old woman up a hollow is visited by an angel, more or less. A very old dead woman rises from her casket during her wake, two ghosts walk on stage, and two elderly sisters make dramatic what was or wasn't incest with their brother or nephew or an orphan. In the second volume is a scoundrel, a professor, a suitcase full of money, a lovesick fellow and a scrappy mother and daughter. There's a near hanging, fornication in a tent, and a near drowning in a baby pool. There are ghosts and a wad of money. There is a satellite dish mistaken for the moon, a moony boy and a large woman with a gargantuan need for babies and the National Inquirer. Such are the goings-on in these delightful, unsettling comedies.

Azrael on the Mountain

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  978-0-9666608-5-2

In this book of vivid, dramatic poems, the dominant image is that of the crane, the twenty-story dragline machine which becomes Azrael, the ancient Hebrew angel of death. He's wounded, isolated from God, and hauling himself insanely back and forth as he separates the mountain from its living grandeur. 

That mechanical giant is used in mountaintop removal coal mining, and the people in the hollows below live in its destructive shadow, the West Virginians and Kentuckians who, with their wildly despairing humor and protest, tell us what it means to live in the chaos of mountaintop removal strip mining. 

The poems bring attention to the need for economic and political reform in the coal mining region of Appalachia. They are a present-day reminder of environmental issues which affect everyone everywhere, and an Indictment-from an obscure mountain world-of our insatiable demand for energy.

Preparing a Room: Poetry

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-4-6

It's amazing how accommodating a passion can be in a forbearing and enduring soul, how desire and longing will shape itself, like a creek, to the obdurate outcrop over which it flows, falling and gathering in pools, and flowing on again, murmuring and babbling between the moss and ferns, between the treelines of sycamore and beech. In this volume of poetry, Preparing a Room, Caleb is the obdurate, unmovable one, while Garvin and Judith are the stream, are the loving ones whose passion is shaped by the beloved. But Caleb is mountain stone, sandstone, and he is shaped, too, by the longing which flows into and over his life. He is deserving of love, but the cost is that of water against stone, of unlike elements which wear and suffer and are often beautiful.

Plays from Blair Mountain: Four Comedies

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-3-8

A Jewish medical student dropout from Los Angeles is inadvertently the cause of levitation, laughter and love in a West Virginia family. Two brothers and a sister bring to the stage their high-spirited improvisations and their desperate reality. An old woman up a hollow is visited by an angel, more or less. A very old dead woman rises from her casket during her wake, two ghosts walk on stage, and two elderly sisters make dramatic what was or wasn't incest with their brother or nephew or an orphan. Such are the goings-on in these delightful, unsettling comedies. 

The Silence of Blackberries: Poetry

Victor Depta

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-0-3

The Silence of Blackberries is the fifth volume of poetry by Victor Depta. The poems are a mystical exploration of nature and the self at the end of our millennium. "What is common in bliss," says the poet, whose subject is not the great spectacles of nature, the Rockies or the Grand Canyon, but the creeks and hills of West Virginia and Tennessee. The poet describes that natural world--its small valleys and streams, its trees and flowers, insects and weeds--but does so with a mystical perspective. That world is integral to the universe, which is unitary and holy, and the poet becomes aware of that unity and holiness through quiet meditation. As the poet says, "the peaceableness which, once again, claims me, achingly, with the question of the silence of blackberries."

In Praise of Motels

Pamela Steed Hill

Blair Mountain Press

ISBN  0-9666608-1-1

This book is not about the romance (or something less) that goes on in rented rooms by the roadside every minute of every day across America. It is about a romance with motels. A kind of love and passion for the impermanence they indicate and, more so, necessitate.