A feature essay from the Spring 2020 issue. I moved to Texas in 2017 and returned often to Dilley. When I would chat with residents—after a city council meeting, at the nail salon, before a cook-off—they’d ask if I was… by Emily Gogolak | Mar, 2020

A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue As sea levels rise, there’s more water than ever coming down the Atchafalaya. Shrimp are being pushed offshore, farther into the Gulf, emptying the bayous that Kermit Duck, Douglas Oleander, and… by Jeanie Riess | Mar, 2020

 A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2020. Over the years, I have come to admire a certain kind of story that the Oxford American, as a quarterly magazine untethered from the demands of a rapid news cycle, is especially well… by Eliza Borné | Mar, 2020

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. Lillie’s sound is not readily identifiable as black or white but seems a merger of the two as she effortlessly blends country and blues in a haunting song about family… by Eric Crawford | Nov, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. What I want is to love Southern rock without being implicated in the Old South politics. I want progress but I want it surgical. Take secession and Strom Thurmond, take… by Mark Powell | Nov, 2019

Writers reflect on Charles Portis He was the real thing, but he was modest about it. An awestruck fan meeting him by chance in a Little Rock bar named the Faded Rose gushed at him, praising him as a great… by Oxford American | Feb, 2020

An Omnivore essay from the Spring 2020 issue.  All kinds of rumors followed Mr. Myers around campus, most of which, it turns out, had some basis in fact: that he was a ferocious tennis player who hated to lose; that… by Benjamin Anastas | Mar, 2020

We would like to hear from you.  The magazine will begin publishing letters to the editor in the fall issue and going forward. If you would like to respond to a story published in the magazine, we welcome your letter. by Oxford American | Jun, 2019

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.