An essay from the Place Issue When the locals are asked about the island’s history, they talk of pirates and Victorian-era seaside resorts, of fish, oaks, and oleander trees, and of storms and disappearing land. They never talk about surfers. by Kerry Rose Graning | Aug, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue There was a time when I would have given anything for this quiet space to reflect. As it is, I’m tired of thinking about God, and maybe the reason I can’t figure out how… by Jamie Quatro | Aug, 2020

A Points South essay from the Place Issue When I learned of El Refugio, I made a pledge to visit one day. Five years later, I made good on it. I thought of the stories inside of Stewart like a… by André Gallant | Aug, 2020

A poem from the Place Issue Symptoms include an inability / to admit to oneself, let alone some chimeric / Crip, or Capulet, our deepest fear is not / that we are inherently adversarial. Though, / perhaps, it should be. by Marcus Wicker | Aug, 2020

A featured short story from the Summer/Fall 2020 issue. We thought it was the hysterics, him saying over and over again that he couldn’t see, he couldn’t see. Momma was there and rocked over him and prayed the best she… by Halle Hill | Aug, 2020

 A Letter from the Editor, Place Issue. A tiresome stereotype about the American South is that this place is a monolith. Growing up in Arkansas, with the two sides of my family living in different regions of the state, I… by Eliza Borné | Jul, 2020

A feature essay from the Summer/Fall 2020 issue. Most people think of human trafficking as involving sex work, but trafficking occurs across a variety of industries, and migrants are as often coerced by threats of lawsuits and debt bondage as… by Rachel Mabe | Aug, 2020

An Omnivore essay from the Summer/Fall 2020 issue. Photographer Maury Gortemiller explores moments similar to this one in his series Do the Priest in Different Voices. I was startled to find my strange memories of this time reflected within his… by Jason Bruner | Aug, 2020

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.