A symposium on Southern poetry featuring Ansel Elkins, Monica A. Hand, Tarfia Faizullah, and Jericho Brown
“The New South.” We use that phrase as if it means something, but it doesn’t. 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 I’m writing these words during Ferguson. In regular life, there’s 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 2014 summer issue to begin the conversation. I invite you, our neighbors, to come in and join the conversation, too.
— Rebecca Gayle Howell, Poetry Editor
* Essays will be published daily in the order below beginning on Monday, Sept. 29
Notes of a Native Daughter
by Ansel Elkins
Poet With a New Attitude
by Monica A. Hand
by Tarfia Faizullah
by Jericho Brown
Photograph: “Self-portrait” by Nadezda Nikolova. Courtesy of the artist