Song and Sensibility

By  |  February 26, 2016
“God” by Bo Bartlett | This image appears alongside Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s “Talking Drum #1” “God” by Bo Bartlett | This image appears alongside Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s “Talking Drum #1”

Since joining the Oxford American in 2014, I’ve taken the occasion of our annual music issue to offer our readers a series of poetry features. I feel that these issues each act as a little archive of a certain time and place, a bound capsule of song and sensibility.

I know on my own bookshelves, our seventeen years’ of music issues sound out among the other bent spines, calling me back, reminding me of my granddaddy singing with the Grand Ole Opry Hour on his one radio, reminding me to join him, despite the century, as I flat holler with OutKast (track 20 on our CD).

Those of us who know the South, know our music has seen us through a lot of good and a lot of hard. We also know that what makes our music more than performance, more than just another American style, has been the nuance of neighbors, sometimes so specific the style of a single song differs greatly from county to county, let alone state to state. It’s my thinking that our poetry, too, lifts up from distinct soils, hard clay or rock or humus so dark you can see your own image in it. For the Georgia issue, I selected new works both from poets born to that red dirt and poets who chose to be reborn to it. They’ve given us poems that speak to loss and landscape, ancestral memories both ancient and now. I hope you’ll enjoy our celebration of this literary place, particular and strong in its song.


Upbringing” by William Wright

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Talking Drum #1” by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

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Tar Road” by Nick Norwood

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Elegy for an Accordion” by Chelsea Rathburn

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The Summer Archivist” by A. E. Stallings

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Read more from the Oxford American  poetry archive.

Rebecca Gayle Howell is the author of American Purgatory and Render / An Apocalypse. She lives in Knott County, Kentucky, where she is James Still Writer-in-Residence at the Hindman Settlement School; since 2014, she has served as poetry editor for this magazine.