Jesse Stuart initially gained prominence as a poet. His first collection, Harvest of Youth (1930), contained eighty-one poems, which are considered largely juvenilia. His second collection, Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow (1934), was composed of 703 poems written in sonnetlike forms (Stuart did not always hold strictly to the sonnet structure). The book was a popular and critical success and brought Stuart his first recognition. His next volume of poetry, Album of Destiny (1944), was less well received, although Stuart considered it his best. Subsequently, he published three other books of verse: Kentucky Is My Land (1952), Hold April (1962), and The World of Jesse Stuart: Selected Poems (1975).
Stuart was also a prolific short-story writer. From his more than three hundred published short stories, Stuart gathered several collections, including Head o’ W-Hollow (1936), Men of the Mountains (1941), Tales from the Plum Grove Hills (1946), Clearing in the Sky, and Other Stories (1950), Plowshare in Heaven: Tales True and Tall from the Kentucky Hills (1958), Save Every Lamb (1964), My Land Has a Voice (1966), and The Best-Loved Short Stories of Jesse Stuart (1982). “Huey the Engineer,” a story first published in Esquire (August, 1937), was later printed in an anthology, The Best Short Stories of 1938. It is generally agreed that Stuart’s best work has been in the short story.
Stuart’s biographical and autobiographical writings, which are among his most important, include Beyond Dark Hills (1938), The Thread That Runs So True (1949), The Year of My Rebirth (1956), and God’s Oddling (1960). In addition, he has written several books for children, including The Beatinest Boy (1953), A Penny’s Worth of Character (1954), Red Mule (1955), The Rightful Owner (1960), and Andy Finds a Way (1961).