Wonders of West Virginia, by Stephen J. Shaluta (Photographer) and Jeanne Mozier (text).
Quarrier Press, © 2005. Phone: 888-982-7474, Charleston, West Virginia.
Review by: Grace Cavalieri
Carl Jung tells us there are four elements to the “complete life.” Things were simpler then. He talks about the sensual, the intuitive, feeling, and thinking. I teach poetry based on these principles because it's a good way to teach writers to find what element is least dominant in the work. And how to stretch that portion more fully. I also, by reason of this shortcut, know my least dominant piece of the Jung pie. I’m fine on feeling, intellect and the connection to the invisible (intuitive), but I can drive by a red tree for 25 years before I notice it. I need to stretch my senses and so I do.
The print (poetry) I work with is hieroglyphics on the page. But there are books where the visual is an extension of the verbal and this becomes something to increase our wonder. All this is by way of saying that the book of “place as image” represents time and change and is a narrative as much as any story that can be told.
I lived in West Virginia for 25 years, part-time, then fulltime, so I admit it is no accident that I chose to illustrate my point about the visual and the letter with Wonders of West Virginia. . The visuals in this book are a realization of how beautiful the world is, an embarrassingly simple notion until we look at it closely. And then it seems a lesson. The display here expresses pre-existing icons in a land, and the human action creating its configuration. I have long been interested in how text and illustration accommodate each other. Here in huge scale, the photography of West Virginia dominates the page, arresting and disarming the reader. So big, so magnetic, so impossible to turn away from. That is what these authors wanted to accomplish—an oceanic experience - eye to brain – and a philosophical statement, a spiritual one saying “Look what nature has done, look what humankind could not do, look at some things we can do.” And for that this book is successful.
Jeanne Mozier who wrote the text is the author of West Virginia’s top selling book “Way Out in West Virginia.” She is also known as an esteemed astrologer, columnist, and art entrepreneur. Berkeley Springs is named as one of the top American art towns because of her efforts. Now she has focussed her passion and energy into creating books. And there are powerful emotional scenes on each page of this one.
You can call it a coffee table book. I tried it on mine, and yes, pick it up and leaf the pages. There is something about photography of place that is always an oasis. Something to rest with. This book represents a “love of place.” It is convincing and persuasive. And more. It is an attitude in relation to what we value and hold. It answers the question” What is beauty worth?” I’ve just made reservations to return for a visit.
Grace Cavalieri is a Poet, and Producer of “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress."