An installment in John T. Edge's Points South column, Local Fare. “I do this to investigate complicity and interrogate white supremacy,” Tunde Wey said on a Monday night in October, standing on a chair before a dinner crowd of fifty-plus… by John T. Edge | Mar, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue. Heroes are no trite matter—people worth looking up to are important at any age. Adult influences wield less power; we come to them more fully formed, with harder edges and less need.… by Tift Merritt | Mar, 2018

A Points South essay from the 100th issue. He used “Niggertown” to make the hearer reconcile the word with the man using it: Lolis Edward Elie, this civil rights lawyer, this man of letters, this collector of fine art and… by Lolis Eric Elie | Mar, 2018

A feature essay from the 100th issue. For Evangelical believers, the most important decision in one’s life—in some ways, the only choice that really matters—occurs abruptly, in the direct presence of God and other people, and then can’t be undone.… by Molly McCully Brown | Mar, 2018

An Omnivore essay from the 100th issue.  In the coming skirmishes over the legitimacy of color photography, the image would take on a great symbolic significance. This minor, inexplicable moment—in which a photographer had pondered a light bulb in the… by Will Stephenson | Mar, 2018

A Points South essay from the 100th issue.  New Orleans loves to celebrate and romanticize its French and Spanish influences. But so much of the city’s culture—the food, the music, the dance, Mardi Gras itself—is indebted to the Caribbean. New… by Laine Kaplan-Levenson | Mar, 2018

A feature essay from the 100th issue. From across the broad and whitecapped Indian River, the Kennedy Space Center looks like two tiny Lego sets in the distant vegetation. The palms here are windswept, the oaks are scrubby. Pelicans bob… by Lauren Groff | Mar, 2018

 A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2018. This issue is packed with other luminaries: Nikki Giovanni, Lolis Eric Elie, and Wendell Berry express the tenderness of our closest relationships. Randall Kenan and Thomas Pierce, contemporary masters of Southern fiction, offer… by Eliza Borné | Mar, 2018

A poem from the Spring 2018 issue. I know we are happy To hold them in our arms      Watching  Them squizzle by Nikki Giovanni | Mar, 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.