An installment in John T. Edge's Points South column, Local Fare. When I began reading and thinking about Dixie Vodka, I didn’t want to gallop toward a conclusion. I aimed to plod, to listen, to map the paper trail of… by John T. Edge | Jun, 2018

A short story from the Fall 2018 issue. He saw no need to damn a place just on the face of it; he figured there must be a flower blooming somewhere in West Memphis, though he had seen no sign… by David Wesley Williams | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. Why was my great-great-grandfather always referred to as “Robert Singleton, the Civil War veteran who lost his leg at Murfreesboro, then went on to become Clerk of the County Court” rather than… by Danielle Chapman | Sep, 2018

 A Letter from the Editor, Fall 2018. I was struck by a phrase written by Jelani Cobb for the New Yorker, which characterized our former president as “a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives.” This… by Eliza Borné | Sep, 2018

A featured short story from the Fall 2018 issue. Our distant ancestor Harriett Moss made a living painting portraits of dead children. But before her career began in earnest, she sketched only cows. It was her husband, Thomas Moss, who… by Lee Conell | Sep, 2018

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue.  Pulled by the pale, stout horses, we listened as he told us the history of the paniolo culture in Hawaii. I sat on the wagon’s bench behind my father as he talked.… by Holly Haworth | Jun, 2018

A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue “I just have this fear every day that somewhere there’s another load going to the landfill of the only known copy of something that helped change American music,” Darden told me.… by Will Bostwick | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. I first devoured Robert Gipe’s books and plays because I wanted to understand Appalachia. I was searching for deeper insights than the victim-blaming bootstrap narrative espoused in J. D. Vance’s best-selling book,… by Beth Macy | Sep, 2018

Reading Florida.  You see one thing when you look at the state from a distance, but if you come closer, dig deeper, you always find something else. This probably has something to do with Disney World, but it also relates… by Sarah Viren | Jun, 2018

Poetry in Place

Poetry in Place

A symposium on Southern poetry


The New South.” We use that phrase as if it means something, but it doesnt. Since the Civil War, the South has been declared new” just about as often as the moon has. Over the years, some needed the South to be newly liberated; others, newly commercialized; others still, newly afraid. Carpetbaggers. Jim Crow. The Freedom Riders. The Coal Mine Wars. The Gingrich Revolution. New Orleans. History loves a do-over. But Im writing these words during Ferguson. In regular life, theres no such thing as a do-over.

A poem comes from a person. A person comes from a place. Sometimes the ground of that place is soaked with a blood crying out. The poet can listen for that old cry and make something new from it. Many of us in the South are emerging from a twentieth-century coma in which we dreamed that any other place was better than our own. These days, we’re buying our food from the county farmer. We’ve started riding our bikes to work. We’re looking people in the eye again, people we may have hurt. What does it mean to be a poet of the “New” South? It’s not an easy question. I invited the poets published in our summer 2014 issue to begin the conversation, and we will add new essays from contributing poets going forward.

— Rebecca Gayle Howell, Poetry Editor


For so many years I thought of myself as a Kentucky poet, and for many years, I proudly wrote about Kentucky, or at least my small, cave-hollowed corner of it. 

While Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown sat in prison, my sisters and I went on school trips to the Biltmore House and Six Flags; we took family trips to Blowing Rock, Chimney Rock, Sliding Rock, Callaway Gardens. By the time I memorized the counties of North Carolina for Mrs. Eddington’s sixth grade class, Brown and his stepbrother had been on death row a couple years.

I came from New York to the racetracks of Florida as a groom but also as a poet, one who wasn’t writing very much. It took some time to end up in a good stable, but I was young and the timing of youth has a sense of the divine, or so it seemed when one day I found myself working for Woody Stephens, who had one of the best training outfits in America.

In a place where we have few trees and a lot of wind, I’ll risk it and go out on a limb to say that Texas may be a part of the New South. Texas doesn’t believe that, but still, there’s a common bond. Almost. I think it was Leon Stokesbury who I first heard define the Southern poem. He thought such a poem likely included a big dose of heartbreak and comic sensibility featuring family, landscape, and religion in varying degrees and combination. I hear these same quirky, dusty, open-sky, heartfelt mixtures in the songs of Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett, the Dixie Chicks (don’t judge), and more recently, Amanda Shires.

The history of the South is the South. And history is always with us—as present as you are, reading these words. As present as I mean to be as I type them. My South made me, in spite of itself.

An installment in our ongoing series, Poetry in Place, a symposium for Southern poets to consider the question, "What does it mean to be a poet of the 'New' South?"

I was not born in the South but I've known the spirit of inequality all my life.

Digging through this hard clay, I dig through history. I take the blood-red clay of my native land and shape it with my own hands. This raw red earth symbolizes violence and vitality.