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POET BYRON HOOT (LEFT) and local photographer Greg Clary (right) of Sligo attended the opening of their Clarion University Art Gallery exhibition, “Piercing the Veil: Appalachian Visions,” last week.

CLARION – Two sons of West Virginia left their homes when they went to colleges and travelled different paths through life — paths that converged last Thursday night at the Clarion University Art Gallery.

The reception offered the first glimpse of “Piercing the Veil: Appalachian Visions,” a collection of photography by Greg Clary and poetry by Byron Hoot. The two are also publishing a book through that features 55 of their photos and poems.

Clary, a professor emeritus of rehab and human services at Clarion University, pursued his interest in photography and poetry in retirement. Clary has spent his entire life in Appalachia. Born and raised in Turkey Creek, W.Va., he now resides in Sligo.

Hoot was born and raised in Morgantown, W.Va. and lived there until he went to college, a 12-year excursion. He never returned to West Virginia but he never left it. Appalachia, the hills and streams, the people, his memory of those first 18 years are deeply embedded. He now lives in northwestern Pennsylvania — still in Appalachia continuing his work as a published poet.

“After retirement, my wife, Cass, enrolled me into a creative nonfiction workshop in Pittsburgh and I got involved and met some people who are writers,” said Clary at the reception. “I was also taking photographs and that was a lot of fun. I can tell you a story about each one of these images, where I was, and what I was doing. What I found was sometimes driving down the road and I look over and I see something and I think that’d be a nice picture. Cass would say, ‘Do you want to turn around?’ Not one time has she ever said, ‘No, we don’t have time.’”

Clary and Hoot met at meetings and workshops throughout the region.

“We went to a writer’s get-together in Brookville and he comes up afterwards and says, ‘Why don’t you send me some of your photos and I’ll write some poems and see what we got,’” Clary continued. “So the first one we did was right here on the wall called ‘Sanctuary of Fog’ and this elk in the fog. He sent the poem back the next day and I thought it was like a grand slam home run.”

Clary continued sending photos and Hoot returned his interpretive poems.

“It’s been a great to work with Byron. He’s a wonderful poet; does all the hard work as far as I’m concerned. I just take pictures and we’re glad that you’re all here for tonight.”

Clarion University Art Gallery Manager Kaersten Colville-Woodruff managed the opening and curated the exhibit. Clarion English faculty and poet Phil Terman introduced the event.

Sanctuary of Fog

Photo by Greg Clary, Poem by Byron Hoot

Sometimes you stumble into a sanctuary

unaware and some old, ancient form

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of divinity ghosts into your vision

and you’re suddenly worshiping the moment

you’re in because there’s nothing else to do

but stand in slight fear, which is but

a term of all when

God was an elk in the mist looking

out, into you before it steps slowly,

suddenly out of sight the way the divine

likes to leave you with the certainty

scene and no words adequate

so you’re silence to proclaim the sanctuary

you’ve just been in as a fog follows

the elk and disappearing

and you recognize the trail you’re on

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