Poetry was never Katherine Anne Porter’s central pursuit: as Darlene Harbour Unrue notes in her introduction to Katherine Anne Porter’s Poetry, Porter was “never a first-rate poet, by her own admission.” But the pieces within are hypnotic—Porter’s distinctive and authoritative speakers conjure vast worlds in small spaces.
Walking in wilderness is sometimes marketed as a clarifying experience—walk to clear your head, or push your limits, or find peace. I’ve always found it to be an exercise in entertaining contradictory thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
The poems of A. R. Ammons focus on easily overlooked, easily dismissed elements of the natural world. Ammons observes the inevitability of time both on a microscopic and global level: how time affects everything from maggots to “drift-logs.”
Black Mountain College sprung up in the 1930s, near Asheville, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a short-lived school born in a time of crisis.
For old-school southern writers, it seems, having roots in the South—being born there—is a key reason they’re classified as “southern writers.” Thinking of contemporary writers like Codrescu as “southern” is more complex. Though often intensely regional, movement is a central concern of his essays and poems.
Driving through southern fields makes visible one of the persistent paradoxes of American production: the coexistence of excess and need. Jean Toomer, writing in 1923, illustrates the disconnect between agricultural abundance and personal lack in his poem “Harvest Song.”
Whereas spring further north leaps cleanly from receding snow and bare branches, southern spring is brief and muddled with the semi-cold winter that precedes it and the too-hot summer that follows. Springtime is a liminal space where the past seeps into the present.
For a brief period in childhood, I was afraid of trees. It was after Hurricane Fran swept through North Carolina, and when the winds subsided trees had fallen on roads, houses, sidewalks. Maybe they would fall on me. And maybe trees in the South are scarier than trees elsewhere.
When does a home become so hostile that you should consider leaving? Southern writers complicate clearly defined ideas of homesickness. In states where discrimination was legislated, hate crimes not prosecuted, and outsiders viewed with suspicion, nostalgia mixes with escapist impulses, love of landscape with horror at racial violence.
Growing up in North Carolina, I was surrounded by languages half-understood. At synagogue, there was the Hebrew I read and chanted but couldn’t understand.