Poems of the American South

Edited by David Biespiel
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Hardcover
$14.95 US
4.4"W x 6.5"H x 0.7"D  
On sale Aug 05, 2014 | 256 Pages | 978-0-375-71244-9
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
This one-of-a-kind collection of poems about the American South ranges over four centuries of its dramatic history.

The arc of poetry of the South, from slave songs to Confederate hymns to Civil War ballads, from Reconstruction turmoil to the Agrarian movement to the dazzling poetry of the New South, is richly varied and historically vibrant. No other region of the United States has been as mythologized as the South, nor contained as many fascinating, beguiling, and sometimes infuriating contradictions. Poems of the American South includes poems both by Southerners and by famous observers of the South who hailed from elsewhere. These range from Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Francis Scott Key through Langston Hughes, Robert Penn Warren, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, James Dickey, and Donald Justice, and include a host of living poets as well: Wendell Berry, Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, C. D. Wright, Natasha Trethewey, and many more. Organized thematically, the anthology places poems from past centuries in fruitful dialogue with a diverse array of modern voices who are redefining the South with a verve that is reinvigorating American poetry as a whole.
Foreword
 
SONGS OF FREEDOM
"Bound for Canaan Land"
"Nobody Knows de Trouble I’ve Had"
"The Good Old Way"
"Go to Sleep"
 
LOOKOUTS
Hart Crane, "Southern Cross"
Langston Hughes, "The South"
Rita Dove, "Reverie in Open Air"
Natasha Trethewey, "Pastoral"
 
TAR HEEL AND PALMETTO
Francis Scott Key, "Defence of Fort McHenry"
A. R. Ammons, "Easter Morning"
Lucille Clifton, "at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989"
Kathryn Stripling Byer, "Night Fishing"
Atsuro Riley, "Diorama"
 
CRITTERS
Sidney Lanier, "The Mocking Bird"
Madison Cawein, "The Whippoorwill"
Donald Justice, "Southern Gothic"
James Dickey, "The Heaven of Animals"
Henry Taylor, "Riding Lesson"
Michael Collier, "Turkey Vultures"
William Logan, "Zero Hour"
Natasha Trethewey, "Flounder"
 
VOLUNTEERS AND BLUEGRASS
Francis Orray Ticknor, "Little Giffen"
Nikki Giovanni, "Knoxville, Tennessee"
James Seay, "Audubon Drive, Memphis"
Maurice Manning, "Sad and Alone"
Bobby C. Roger, "Jerry Lee Lewis Plays 'That Lucky Old Sun' at Bad Bob’s Vapors Club, Memphis, Tennessee"
 
WARTIME
Herman Melville, "Shiloh"
Henry Timrod, "Charleston"
Margaret Junkin Preston, “Under the Shade of the Trees”
James Dickey, "Hunting Civil War Relics at Nimblewill Creek"
Charles Wright, "My Own Little Civil War"
Natasha Trethewey, "Elegy for the Native Guards"
 
BAYOUS AND THE LONE STAR
Walt Whitman, "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing" 
Dave Smith, "Drycleaners"
W. S. Di Piero, "Fat Tuesday"
Naomi Shihab Nye, "Going for Peaches, Fredericksburg, Texas"
Ai, "The Singers"
Sandra Cisneros, "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me"
Ray Gonzalez, "Rattlesnakes Hammered on the Wall"
Andrei Codrescu, "Virgin Mule"
Yusef Komunyakaa, "Immolatus"
Adam Zagajewski, "Houston, 6 p.m."
David Biespiel, "To Sylvester from Terminal B"
Greg Glazner, The Animal Intelligences"
Kevin Young, "Ode to Boudin"
Henry Hughes, "Since the City Turned Blue"
 
A CLOUD OF WITNESSES
Sidney Lanier, "A Ballad of Trees and the Master"
Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy"
Edgar Allan Poe, "Sonnet: To Silence"
Robert Penn Warren, "Founding Fathers, Nineteenth-Century Style, Southeast U.S.A."
Wendell Berry, "Manifestor: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"
Etheridge Knight, "The Warden Said to Me the Other Day"
Sonia Sanchez, "I Have Walked a Long Time"
C. D. Wright, "Remarks on Color"
 
YELLOWHAMMER, MAGNOLIA, AND THE NATURAL STATE
Langston Hughes, "Birmingham Sunday"
Etheridge Knight, "The Idea of Ancestry"
Andrew Hudgins, "Julia Tutwiler State Prison for Women"
Rodney Jones, "Sweep"
C. D. Wright, "The Ozark Odes"
Fleda Brown, "The Farthest North Southern Town"
Frank Stanford, "The Gospel Bird"
Stanley Plumly, "Four Hundred Mourners"
Natasha Trethewey, "Providence"
Geoffrey Brock, "Trip Hop"
Honoree Jeffers, "Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Her Cousin
Lady Elizabeth Murray, c. 1779"
 
BEAUS AND BELLES
Langston Hughes, "Song for a Dark Girl"
John Crowe Ransom, "Piazza Piece"
Eleanor Ross Taylor, "Pause, In Flight"
David Huddle, "Burned Man"
C. D. Wright, "Everything Good Between Men and Women"
 
MOUNTAINS AND THE OLD DOMINION
Muriel Rukeyser, "The Soul and Body of John Brown"
Charles Wright, "A Short History of the Shadow"
Gregory Orr, "Virginia Backyard: July"
Bob Hicok, "In the Loop"
Maggie Anderson, "Sonnet for Her Labor"
David Huddle, "Roanoke Pastorale"
Wendy Willis, "More Notes on the Theory of American Degeneracy"
 
SUNSHINE AND PEACHES
Walt Whitman, "Orange Buds by Mail from Florida"
Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West"
Jan Toomer, "Georgia Dusk"
Amy Clampitt, "Discovery"
Elizabeth Bishop, "Florida"
David Bottoms, "Under the Vulture Tree"
Debora Greger, "My First Mermaid"
Campbell McGrath, "Shopping for Pomegranates at Wal-mart on New Year’s Day"
Joe Bolton, "Tropical Courtyard"
 
DESTINATIONS AND TENDER MERCIES
Mary McNeil Fenollosa, "The Magnolia"
Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
Donald Justice, "The Small White Churches of the Small White Towns"
Tino Villanueva, "Haciendo Apenas la Recoleccion"
Phillis Levin, "Elegy for a Magnolia"
Christian Wiman, "Rhymes for a Watertower"
Peter Campion, "Danielle"
Terrance Hayes, "The Blue Terrance"
Excerpted from the Foreword


No other region in America is as mythologized as the South. It can at times be a troubled narration. The South was founded on a scheme of brutal slavery, aggrieved by civil war, glorified by a false lost cause, and shackled to legalized racial segregation. A Southerner’s soul-searching has long been one of agitation and anguish, chagrin and disquiet, a harrowed and mortified and tormented weave.
 
Running boldly beneath that narrative, on the other hand, is a heartbeat of liberty and equity too: the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the White Sulphur Manifesto, the Underground Railroad and the Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Letter from Birmingham Jail.
 
These histories have now met a new, defining reality in the South, a phenomenon prevalent across the United states. The white baby-boom generation is nearing retirement and the new generation of Southerners is made up of a growing population of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and people of all races, blended into a melting pot of accelerating economic change. This demographic shift is at the root of a renewed vibrancy in political life in the American South, and it is at the root of a renewed vibrancy in the poetry of the American South as well.
 
But the South’s self-mythologizing is not just restricted to economic and political history. Southern culture is American culture. Southerners are proud of inventing American music – jazz and the blues, bluegrass and the gospel, country and western and zydeco. Southerners are proud of inventing a diverse American cuisine – corn bread and shoofy and succotash, grits and chicken fried steak, BBQ, bourbon, and red-eye gravy.
 
When it comes to ruminating and swapping stories about the South, Southerners will bless and eulogize, fret and lionize, despair and glorify. As a Texan, I dearly love my home state with all its perplexing and incongruities. I consider my love, as Molly Ivins once put it, “a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”
 
These dynamic renditions of the South evoke country swamps and suburban malls, lost byways and ten-lane freeways, rednecks and yuppies and snowbirds. Given the ease with which one can summon the totems of the South, and given the way that the culture and history of the South serves as an emotional lightning rod across the nation, at times unfairly, it’s worth asking what can be said about the South that hasn’t been said already?
 
And yet: even if it seems that nothing new can be said, that’s precisely where poetry steps in. More to the point, poetry must step in because poetry’s calling is to say the new thing. It is the art of finding new words in new orders. It is poetic utterance that dramatizes afresh the inner consciousness and outer stories of our existence.
 
This ambition holds true for the poetry of the American South as well. Here I mean to empathize the of and not just the South in that formulation. This anthology begins with the hymns and rhythms of enslaved people who were shipped to this continent four hundred years ago against their will. Enslaved Africans brought with them the roots of American poetry and, as a consequence, there’s been an ingrained sensibility about the tragedy of human bondage in Southern literature; as William Faulkner famously said, “The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.”
 
If these essential poems of enslaved Africans, which date back to the eighteenth century, present a profound moral stance on subjugation and deliverance, the poetry written b nineteenth–century Southern poets is marked by piousness baked into inflated nostalgia. These are voices that burn for the doomed Confederacy, pine for antebellum mush, and are filled to the brim with patriotic crap.

About

This one-of-a-kind collection of poems about the American South ranges over four centuries of its dramatic history.

The arc of poetry of the South, from slave songs to Confederate hymns to Civil War ballads, from Reconstruction turmoil to the Agrarian movement to the dazzling poetry of the New South, is richly varied and historically vibrant. No other region of the United States has been as mythologized as the South, nor contained as many fascinating, beguiling, and sometimes infuriating contradictions. Poems of the American South includes poems both by Southerners and by famous observers of the South who hailed from elsewhere. These range from Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Francis Scott Key through Langston Hughes, Robert Penn Warren, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, James Dickey, and Donald Justice, and include a host of living poets as well: Wendell Berry, Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, C. D. Wright, Natasha Trethewey, and many more. Organized thematically, the anthology places poems from past centuries in fruitful dialogue with a diverse array of modern voices who are redefining the South with a verve that is reinvigorating American poetry as a whole.

Table of Contents

Foreword
 
SONGS OF FREEDOM
"Bound for Canaan Land"
"Nobody Knows de Trouble I’ve Had"
"The Good Old Way"
"Go to Sleep"
 
LOOKOUTS
Hart Crane, "Southern Cross"
Langston Hughes, "The South"
Rita Dove, "Reverie in Open Air"
Natasha Trethewey, "Pastoral"
 
TAR HEEL AND PALMETTO
Francis Scott Key, "Defence of Fort McHenry"
A. R. Ammons, "Easter Morning"
Lucille Clifton, "at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989"
Kathryn Stripling Byer, "Night Fishing"
Atsuro Riley, "Diorama"
 
CRITTERS
Sidney Lanier, "The Mocking Bird"
Madison Cawein, "The Whippoorwill"
Donald Justice, "Southern Gothic"
James Dickey, "The Heaven of Animals"
Henry Taylor, "Riding Lesson"
Michael Collier, "Turkey Vultures"
William Logan, "Zero Hour"
Natasha Trethewey, "Flounder"
 
VOLUNTEERS AND BLUEGRASS
Francis Orray Ticknor, "Little Giffen"
Nikki Giovanni, "Knoxville, Tennessee"
James Seay, "Audubon Drive, Memphis"
Maurice Manning, "Sad and Alone"
Bobby C. Roger, "Jerry Lee Lewis Plays 'That Lucky Old Sun' at Bad Bob’s Vapors Club, Memphis, Tennessee"
 
WARTIME
Herman Melville, "Shiloh"
Henry Timrod, "Charleston"
Margaret Junkin Preston, “Under the Shade of the Trees”
James Dickey, "Hunting Civil War Relics at Nimblewill Creek"
Charles Wright, "My Own Little Civil War"
Natasha Trethewey, "Elegy for the Native Guards"
 
BAYOUS AND THE LONE STAR
Walt Whitman, "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing" 
Dave Smith, "Drycleaners"
W. S. Di Piero, "Fat Tuesday"
Naomi Shihab Nye, "Going for Peaches, Fredericksburg, Texas"
Ai, "The Singers"
Sandra Cisneros, "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me"
Ray Gonzalez, "Rattlesnakes Hammered on the Wall"
Andrei Codrescu, "Virgin Mule"
Yusef Komunyakaa, "Immolatus"
Adam Zagajewski, "Houston, 6 p.m."
David Biespiel, "To Sylvester from Terminal B"
Greg Glazner, The Animal Intelligences"
Kevin Young, "Ode to Boudin"
Henry Hughes, "Since the City Turned Blue"
 
A CLOUD OF WITNESSES
Sidney Lanier, "A Ballad of Trees and the Master"
Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy"
Edgar Allan Poe, "Sonnet: To Silence"
Robert Penn Warren, "Founding Fathers, Nineteenth-Century Style, Southeast U.S.A."
Wendell Berry, "Manifestor: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"
Etheridge Knight, "The Warden Said to Me the Other Day"
Sonia Sanchez, "I Have Walked a Long Time"
C. D. Wright, "Remarks on Color"
 
YELLOWHAMMER, MAGNOLIA, AND THE NATURAL STATE
Langston Hughes, "Birmingham Sunday"
Etheridge Knight, "The Idea of Ancestry"
Andrew Hudgins, "Julia Tutwiler State Prison for Women"
Rodney Jones, "Sweep"
C. D. Wright, "The Ozark Odes"
Fleda Brown, "The Farthest North Southern Town"
Frank Stanford, "The Gospel Bird"
Stanley Plumly, "Four Hundred Mourners"
Natasha Trethewey, "Providence"
Geoffrey Brock, "Trip Hop"
Honoree Jeffers, "Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Her Cousin
Lady Elizabeth Murray, c. 1779"
 
BEAUS AND BELLES
Langston Hughes, "Song for a Dark Girl"
John Crowe Ransom, "Piazza Piece"
Eleanor Ross Taylor, "Pause, In Flight"
David Huddle, "Burned Man"
C. D. Wright, "Everything Good Between Men and Women"
 
MOUNTAINS AND THE OLD DOMINION
Muriel Rukeyser, "The Soul and Body of John Brown"
Charles Wright, "A Short History of the Shadow"
Gregory Orr, "Virginia Backyard: July"
Bob Hicok, "In the Loop"
Maggie Anderson, "Sonnet for Her Labor"
David Huddle, "Roanoke Pastorale"
Wendy Willis, "More Notes on the Theory of American Degeneracy"
 
SUNSHINE AND PEACHES
Walt Whitman, "Orange Buds by Mail from Florida"
Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West"
Jan Toomer, "Georgia Dusk"
Amy Clampitt, "Discovery"
Elizabeth Bishop, "Florida"
David Bottoms, "Under the Vulture Tree"
Debora Greger, "My First Mermaid"
Campbell McGrath, "Shopping for Pomegranates at Wal-mart on New Year’s Day"
Joe Bolton, "Tropical Courtyard"
 
DESTINATIONS AND TENDER MERCIES
Mary McNeil Fenollosa, "The Magnolia"
Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
Donald Justice, "The Small White Churches of the Small White Towns"
Tino Villanueva, "Haciendo Apenas la Recoleccion"
Phillis Levin, "Elegy for a Magnolia"
Christian Wiman, "Rhymes for a Watertower"
Peter Campion, "Danielle"
Terrance Hayes, "The Blue Terrance"

Excerpt

Excerpted from the Foreword


No other region in America is as mythologized as the South. It can at times be a troubled narration. The South was founded on a scheme of brutal slavery, aggrieved by civil war, glorified by a false lost cause, and shackled to legalized racial segregation. A Southerner’s soul-searching has long been one of agitation and anguish, chagrin and disquiet, a harrowed and mortified and tormented weave.
 
Running boldly beneath that narrative, on the other hand, is a heartbeat of liberty and equity too: the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the White Sulphur Manifesto, the Underground Railroad and the Freedom Riders, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Letter from Birmingham Jail.
 
These histories have now met a new, defining reality in the South, a phenomenon prevalent across the United states. The white baby-boom generation is nearing retirement and the new generation of Southerners is made up of a growing population of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and people of all races, blended into a melting pot of accelerating economic change. This demographic shift is at the root of a renewed vibrancy in political life in the American South, and it is at the root of a renewed vibrancy in the poetry of the American South as well.
 
But the South’s self-mythologizing is not just restricted to economic and political history. Southern culture is American culture. Southerners are proud of inventing American music – jazz and the blues, bluegrass and the gospel, country and western and zydeco. Southerners are proud of inventing a diverse American cuisine – corn bread and shoofy and succotash, grits and chicken fried steak, BBQ, bourbon, and red-eye gravy.
 
When it comes to ruminating and swapping stories about the South, Southerners will bless and eulogize, fret and lionize, despair and glorify. As a Texan, I dearly love my home state with all its perplexing and incongruities. I consider my love, as Molly Ivins once put it, “a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”
 
These dynamic renditions of the South evoke country swamps and suburban malls, lost byways and ten-lane freeways, rednecks and yuppies and snowbirds. Given the ease with which one can summon the totems of the South, and given the way that the culture and history of the South serves as an emotional lightning rod across the nation, at times unfairly, it’s worth asking what can be said about the South that hasn’t been said already?
 
And yet: even if it seems that nothing new can be said, that’s precisely where poetry steps in. More to the point, poetry must step in because poetry’s calling is to say the new thing. It is the art of finding new words in new orders. It is poetic utterance that dramatizes afresh the inner consciousness and outer stories of our existence.
 
This ambition holds true for the poetry of the American South as well. Here I mean to empathize the of and not just the South in that formulation. This anthology begins with the hymns and rhythms of enslaved people who were shipped to this continent four hundred years ago against their will. Enslaved Africans brought with them the roots of American poetry and, as a consequence, there’s been an ingrained sensibility about the tragedy of human bondage in Southern literature; as William Faulkner famously said, “The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.”
 
If these essential poems of enslaved Africans, which date back to the eighteenth century, present a profound moral stance on subjugation and deliverance, the poetry written b nineteenth–century Southern poets is marked by piousness baked into inflated nostalgia. These are voices that burn for the doomed Confederacy, pine for antebellum mush, and are filled to the brim with patriotic crap.

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