Archive for the 'poetry' Category

Sidney Lanier’s legacy in question with school renaming

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

The controversy surrounding schools bearing Confederate names brings into question how figures like Sidney Lanier deserve to be recognized. Vanished in the Unknown Shade, a biography of Lanier, was a small local project for us at NewSouth Books, the 9781603062619-Perfectchance to work again with the talented and irrepressible Helen Blackshear, former poet laureate of Alabama, in the year before she died. Her short study of Sidney Lanier interested us, in part because so little about the poet had been written.

Lanier fought as a young man on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, he lived in Montgomery, working as a desk clerk at a local hotel and as an organist at a church in nearby Prattville; a city high school took his name. Lanier was a talented musician and later became a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. He wrote poetry for much of his life. His verse captured the agricultural landscape of his home, romanticized the Old South, and was often written in dialect or archaic English. Thus he was dubbed “poet of the Confederacy.”

Now, at a time of great social unrest, when we as citizens of this great country have fresh reasons to want taken down monuments to those who  Sidney_Lanier_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16622were blind to the sins of slavery and segregation or, worse yet, who actively participated in these systems of oppression, we must ask ourselves how we can frame balanced judgment about such people. Sidney Lanier’s name will be removed from the high school that sought to honor him in its taking, as reported by WSFA. NewSouth believes this is necessary and just. Still, there is value in Lanier’s literary legacy, which we commend you not to forget.

Jacqueline Trimble wins 2016 Balcones Poetry Prize for debut collection, American Happiness

Friday, July 14th, 2017 by Randall Williams

In a bit of great news, American Happiness, recently published by NewSouth Books, wowed the judges of the Balcones Prize, winning the 2016 award for Jacqueline Allen Trimble in the poetry category. The judges at Austin Community College said of her work, “Hers is a refreshing voice. Her poetry is intimate and irony-filled.” They add, “Trimble should never be taken lightly — but, darn it, her poems are so often funny.” Certainly, Jackie Trimble does not take receipt of the award lightly. She was overjoyed about it, especially given the caliber of the poetry award finalists — Claudia Rankine, Bryce Milligan, James Galvin, and Martin Espada — sevand the many greats who were previous winners (Natalie Diaz and Mark Jarmon, to name just two). For Jackie Trimble, the Balcones Award follows receipt of the 2016 Seven Sisters Book Award in the poetry category. The Seven Sisters Book Awards recognize “the stories of women and those who tell them.” The award was established by author Lynne Hinton in 2015.

American Happiness is available from NewSouth Books, or your favorite bookstore.

Carson McCullers turns 100. Poet Sue Brannan Walker gets busy.

Friday, March 3rd, 2017 by Lisa Harrison

It's Good Weather for Fudge by Sue Brannan Walker2017 is already proving to be a busier year than most for Alabama Poet Laureate Emeritus Sue Brannan Walker. January saw the publication of her imaginative long-form poem It’s Good Weather for Fudge: Conversing with Carson McCullers, with an introduction by McCullers scholar Carlos Dews, released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of McCullers’s birth on February 19.

Fittingly, the first official event for the new book was hosted by the Georgia Center for the Book — Columbus, Georgia being the birthplace of Ms. McCullers. Walker will present at the Alabama Writers Symposium and public libraries in Mobile and Demopolis, Alabama, traveling to New Orleans, New York City, Georgia again, and beyond for other events. A most-anticipated stop will be in Rome, Italy this coming summer, where she will be a featured presenter at the Carson McCullers Centenary Conference hosted by John Cabot University.

In addition to her activities recognizing the McCullers centenary, Walker wrote the script for a Eugene Walter Reader’s Theater program, which premiered last month to an SRO crowd in the new Hilton Garden Inn Eugene’s Monkey Bar & Grill in Mobile. Walker’s script was based on Walter’s short story, “The Byzantine Riddle.” Next month, a new book of Walker’s poetry, Let Us Imagine Her Name, is due out from Clemson University Press. Whew.

Byzantie Riddle cast and writer Sue Brannan Walker

At the “Byzantine Riddle” premiere, writer Sue Brannan Walker (second from right) and performers (from left) Tom Mason, Carolyn Haines, Nancy Anlage,
and Jordan Noon.

It’s Good Weather for Fudge is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

American Happiness named award finalist; author Jacqueline Trimble featured in Cave Canem blog post

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

American Happiness by Jacqueline TrimbleAmerican Happiness has been selected as a finalist in the Seven Sisters Book Awards, which recognize talented female authors in seven categories. President Lynn Hinton notes that the awards celebrate the stories of women and the women who write them, and says she is excited about this second year of the awards program.

The award judges, however, aren’t alone in praising Trimble’s “grown-woman poetics,” a phrase we borrow from the outstanding blurb author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers contributed to the book. There are also the insightful comments that came to us from Jennifer Horne, another strong poet/writer. “Trimble’s grace,” she says, “is in the anger distilled to the bitter draft you savor as it bites, in thinking to ask whether Jean-Paul Sartre ever asked Simone de Beauvoir to go to the Winn-Dixie, in the fairy tales she rewrites and the myths of America she questions.” Amen, and may the best woman win.

And in related news, in a blog post on Poetry Foundation’s website, Cave Canem, perhaps our nation’s premier organization dedicated to supporting African American poets, asked its writer members to recall 20 years back, to the days of the founding of the group. Read the article by Tyehimba Jess and discover what Jacqueline Trimble had to say about Alice Walker . . . and the importance of washing dishes.

American Happiness is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Andrew Glaze, Alabama poet laureate, dies at 95

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 by Suzanne La Rosa

Andrew GlazeOn February 7, 2016, Andrew Glaze, Alabama’s eleventh poet laureate, died peacefully in his sleep in his home in Birmingham, Alabama. He was 95 years old. He was an American master, who wrote with astonishing vigor and clarity for more than 60 years.

In 2012, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley commissioned Glaze as the state’s eleventh Poet Laureate at a ceremony at the State Capitol in Montgomery. More recently, in June 2015, Glaze was inducted into the inaugural class of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.

Andrew Glaze is the author of ten books of poetry and two published collections of his selected verse. He won critical acclaim with the publication of his first book, Damned Ugly Children, a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 1966. He has been twice published by NewSouth Books — his poetry collections Remembering Thunder and Overheard in a Drugstore were released in 2002 and 2015, respectively.

In his verse Glaze was (playfully sometimes) both Titan and fallen angel. His poems were odes to our collective humanity, ever exhorting us to reach for our better selves, to reach for the truth.

In his praise for Overheard in a Drugstore, poet Pablo Medina calls Glaze “a true American poet in the vein of Whitman, Williams, and Frost,” and adds that there isn’t a page in his new book that doesn’t sing, a line that doesn’t point in the direction of greatness.” William Doreski says Glaze has been “an essential poet for more than sixty years.”

At NewSouth Books, we mourn the loss of our prodigiously talented friend, but are consoled to think maybe that our Mr. Glaze was at peace about his own passing. Read the following poem published in Overheard in a Drugstore not six months ago, and see if you don’t agree.

Tomorrow Ill Be Gone

Ill go west up the cart path

first thing this morning

to the top of the Palisades,

and coming around the edges of old rock quarries



in a certain way

and sail out over the river

like an angel.

From up there

at last I will take a long look

at the sunrise,

with nothing whatever in the way.

Not a worry or consideration

about refueling,

no vibration sickness,

not a reminder of the time for coffee.

I will slide out over Block Island

and Sandy Hook.

Maybe I will flap off to Europe,

maybe not.

Who knows how I will feel under those circumstances?


I will be back for dinner

upon the chimneys of the White House

served upon confusion of purpose

and loftiness of aim.

I will be given a free ticket

upon the Pennsylvania Railroad,

but I will not be troubled to use it.

Of course it will not be long

before the whole world

will have set out to look for me

obsessed with what it will call patriotism

or commitment or admiration,

by which it will mean inverted love.

And while I am dropping strawberries with notes from above,

everybody will be plodding

around through the snow

in astrakhans and knee boots

asking for me.

But in every case, as they arrive,

I will have just that minute come in

through the front door

and taken wing at the back.

(Copyright Andrew L. Glaze, 2015)

Remembering Thunder and Overheard in a Drugstore are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

In Memoriam: Sabbath Country poet Charles Semones, 1937-2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

And All the Layered Light: Last Poems by Charles SemonesGuest post by Gregg Swem, antiquarian book dealer and Wade Hall’s life partner

Kentucky poet Charles Semones died on September 13, 2015. He was 78. Although he lived in Harrodsburg in his latter years, he was originally from the Deep Creek community of Mercer County, Kentucky, west of Harrodsburg, a rural landscape of stark ridges and hollows which informed much of the writer’s work. He was the author of And All the Layered Light: Last Poems, published in NewSouth Books’s “The Conecuh Series” in 2007.

Wade Hall, who wrote the introduction to the collection, was a longtime friend and literary mentor of Semones. Hall edited Kentucky Poetry Review in Louisville for many years, and Semones was a frequent contrbutor to that publication. Semones’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, general magazines and religious publications. Hall, a native of Bullock County, Alabama, where he returned in 2006 after a long teaching career in Louisville, often referred to Semones as “Kentucky’s finest living poet.”

In 1973, Kentucky Poetry Review published Semones’ Witch Cry, his first collection of poetry. And in the spring of 1992, the last issue of Kentucky Poetry Review was dedicated to Semones, featuring 10 of his poems. The issue also included poems by such literary figures as Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk who had lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky; James Laughlin of New Directions, which published Merton’s works; Wendell Berry, James Baker Hall, Sarah Litsey, Jane Mayhall, James Still, Jim Wayne Miller and Jane Stuart.

Charles Semones

Other volumes of poetry by Charles Semones are Homeplace (1993), Hard Love (1994), and Afternoon in the Country of Summer: New and Selected Poems (2003). He is also the author of a book of essays, A Storm of Honey: Notes from the Sabbath Country (2004). In 2003, he was given the inaugural Kentucky Literary Award for Excellence in Poetry.

Harking back to the earliest days of his association with Charles Semones in Kentucky, editor Hall points out in And All the Layered Light that he soon discovered he was “a talented, driven poet” unlike others he knew. “He seemed to inhabit another land, another country. Most of his poems were grounded in a place in Central Kentucky he called The Sabbath Country, which I discovered was based on his native Mercer County, and in particular, the rural inhabitants. . . .” In what was to be Semones’s last collection of poems, Hall found “a world of longing and desire, of passion and pursuit, of rapture and depression.” Furthermore, he states, “In his reclusive, gospel-drenched, haunted world of draped mirrors and desperate dog days of summer, the poet-lover moves along his lonely route seeking and hoping for at least a brief respite from the Gothic horrors, internal and external, that curse his journey. Semones’s own autobiographical travels and travails, which he has translated into a universal poetry of the soul, will resonate deeply with anyone who thinks deeply about the human condition.”

And All the Layered Light is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Andrew Glaze, Poet Laureate of Alabama, inducted into Alabama Writers Hall of Fame at inaugural ceremony

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Anna Fahlberg

Overheard in a Drugstore by Andrew GlazeAndrew Glaze, Poet Laureate of Alabama and author of the forthcoming poetry collection Overheard in a Bookstore and also Remembering Thunder, has been inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. The event was hosted by the Alabama Center for the Book and sponsored by the Alabama Writers’ Forum.

Glaze, currently in his nineties, was the oldest living recipient of the award. In addition to Andrew Glaze, other notable inductees include Harper Lee and Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg. Posthumous recipients included Zora Neale Hurston, novelist Albert Murray, and writer Helen Keller. An Associated Press article on the event was carried nationwide, including in the Park Record of Park City, Utah.

At the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame induction ceremony, from left: Cathy Randall (for Harper Lee); Keller Johnson Thompson (for Helen Keller); Bert Hitchcock (for Johnson Jones Hooper); Sonia Sanchez; Andrew Glaze; Rick Bragg; John Jeter (for Sena Jeter Naslund); Valerie Boyd (for Zora Neale Hurston); Paul Devlin (for Albert Murray); Kathleen Thompson (for Helen Norris Bell); Edward Russell March III (for William March); Mary Lou Meaher (for Augusta Jane Evans Wilson). Photo by Elizabeth Wyngarden Limbaugh.

At the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame induction ceremony, from left: Cathy Randall (for Harper Lee); Keller Johnson Thompson (for Helen Keller); Bert Hitchcock (for Johnson Jones Hooper); Sonia Sanchez; Andrew Glaze; Rick Bragg; John Jeter (for Sena Jeter Naslund); Valerie Boyd (for Zora Neale Hurston); Paul Devlin (for Albert Murray); Kathleen Thompson (for Helen Norris Bell); Edward Russell March III (for William March); Mary Lou Meaher (for Augusta Jane Evans Wilson). Photo by Elizabeth Wyngarden Limbaugh.

Glaze has been highly praised in the New York Times, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and honored with awards from Poetry Magazine and the Southeastern Booksellers Association. His first full-length collection, Damned Ugly Children (1966), was named a “Notable Book” by the American Library Association. Glaze has a forthcoming collection of verse, Overheard in a Drugstore, due out the first of August. The new collection is his first since Remembering Thunder, an anthology of his previous work, which was published by NewSouth Books in 2003. In his praise for Remembering Thunder, poet Pablo Medina sums it up perfectly: “There are few poets today who have the sharp eye and fierce tongue of Andrew Glaze.”

Andrew Glaze, Alabama Writers Hall of Fame inductee (photo by Elizabeth Glaze Searle)

Andrew Glaze with his Alabama Writers Hall of Fame induction medal
(photo by Elizabeth Glaze Searle)

Overheard in a Drugstore will be available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or from your favorite bookstore.

Tavis Smiley Show, Associated Press spotlight Voices Beyond Bondage poetry anthology

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th CenturyVoices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century, which seeks to reveal the largely unknown literary heritage of enslaved and free African Americans of that era, received prominent coverage recently with an Associated Press article and a discussion on the Tavis Smiley radio show.

The book, edited by Erika DeSimone and Fidel Louis, reprints 150 poems originally published in nineteenth-century black-owned newspapers, which often held open calls for poetry submissions. The recognition of this poetry helps to bring greater depth to the identity of these nineteenth-century African Americans, an identity that has been largely subsumed in popular history by the atrocities of slavery.

“The way history portrays African Americans in the nineteenth-century is really inaccurate,” DeSimone told Tavis Smiley in a recent interview. “It occurred to me that there’s really something valuable here, there’s really something that’s missing from the literary canon.”

Smiley asked DeSimone who the authors of the poems were, and DeSimone explained that they were ministers and abolitionists, “but overall these are people we haven’t heard from, these are people whose voices have not been recorded anywhere outside of these newspapers.” DeSimone added that “reading among slaves was not as uncommon as we think,” and that an estimated ten percent of slaves were literate.

Among those literate slaves was George Moses Horton, spotlighted in Jesse Holland’s Associated Press review of Voices Beyond Bondage, picked up by the ABC News and diverse newspapers serving diverse communities from Delhi, India, to Calgary, Canada. “As a black slave in rural North Carolina in the pre-Civil War South, [Horton] … wasn’t supposed to be able to compose sonnets and ballads,” Holland writes, “But on July 18, 1828, his poem ‘Slavery’ appeared in the newspaper Freedom’s Journal.” According to DeSimone, Horton would “compose poems — beautiful, complex, lush, poems — in his head and have others write them down. In fact, he’d recite these poems and sell them near [the University of North Carolina]; students paid good money to have poems ‘written’ for their girlfriends.”

Another poet in the book, Holland mentions, is John Willis Menard, a newspaper publisher, the first African American elected to the House of Representatives, and the first African American to address Congress.

The various sections in the anthology include poems about freedom, dedications to others, moral and civic perspectives, nature poems, and humor. Smiley asked, “What did black folk find humorous [back then],” and DeSimone gave as examples a “nonsense” poem, a poem decrying the hot weather, and a poetic tale of misguided lovers.

Holland concludes, “DeSimone and Louis’ work expands the field of black poetry, disproves the myth that nineteenth-century African Americans were illiterate or uneducated, and should be a welcome addition to any historian or poetry lover’s library.”

Read Jesse Holland’s “Review: ‘Voices Beyond Bondage’ expands the field of black poetry” online. You can also listen to the Tavis Smiley Show interview with Erika DeSimone from the show’s website..

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Huffington Post blog spotlights Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th CenturyA Huffington Post blog entry by Erika DeSimone spotlights Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century, co-edited by DeSimone and Fidel Louis and recently released by NewSouth Books. In the blog post, “The Literary Movement America Forgot,” DeSimone shares her insights into “history-through-omission,” which developed while she and Louis were researching the book.

She writes:

As we groped through countless reels of microfiche and exhumed hundreds of poems, we came to more fully understand the rich cultural and literary heritages of African Americans, heritages that have largely been subsumed in popular history by the horrific reality of slavery in America and our shameful race-based human chattel bondage system.

Omission-history tells us that slavery was the only identity of African Americans in the 19th century, but this is not the case. Relatively sizable populations of free African Americans existed in cities like New York and Boston, while smaller communities dotted the landscapes of Border States, the northeast, and America’s territories. And, of course, not all southern African Americans were enslaved. But while these people were sadly, inarguably marginalized, often wholly invisible to society at large and for the most part completely segregated from Anglo society, they were not universally without resources or voice.

In 1827 the efforts of three freeborn New York City African American clergymen — Samuel E. Cornish, John B. Russwurm, and Peter Williams Jr. — birthed the nation’s first black-owned and operated newspaper. When Freedom’s Journal hit the newsstands, it marked the first moments of an unprecedented revolution in American media. As the sole black-controlled publication in the nation, this four-page weekly was the first to focus on content of interest to African American communities (something woefully absent from mainstream media) and was refreshingly, blissfully, free of the usual clutter of socially demeaning ads. Although initial circulation was small, the Journal was lauded by the abolitionist/liberal media for its fine reporting and touched off what would become a veritable maelstrom of black-owned presses to follow.

Perhaps what is most surprising about Freedom’s Journal is not merely its existence in an era of such segregation, but that the paper — which had no shortage of topics to cover — reserved in every issue an open-call column for poetry, thereby creating and nurturing a creative space for African Americans, making the Journal truly the voice of its readership.

Read Erika DeSimone’s full essay in the Huffington Post.

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Huffington Post spotlights poet David Rigsbee in Video Reading Series

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 by Blair Johnson

The Red Tower: New & Selected Poems by David RigsbeeIn a recent article in the Huffington Post, Anis Shivani cited poet David Rigsbee (The Red Tower) as one of eight emerging poets and fiction writers who represent “the cutting-edge of today’s literary world.”

As part of the “Video Reading Series,” Rigsbee and his fellow writers are featured in videos reading selections from their works and are also given the opportunity to present a behind-the-scenes look at their writing. Each writer presents a short elucidation on their own work, explaining the writing process as well as the roots and vision of their pieces.

Rigsbee, a North Carolina native and author of numerous full-length collections of poems including The Red Tower: New & Selected Poems, published by NewSouth Books in 2010, has received several awards that recognize his talent. These include the Sam Ragan Award for Distinguished Service to North Carolina Arts, the 2013 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and the 2011 Oscar Arnold Young Award for The Red Tower, given by the Poetry Council of North Carolina.

In the Huffington Post’s “Video Reading Series,” Rigsbee reads “Russians,” a poem from his collection entitled School of the Americas (2012). Rigsbee explains his desire to write poems “that don’t spend your time making conundrums or feed you on impossible verbal desserts” in School of the Americas. He says that his new, simplified form of verse “improved on the old by becoming more superficial.” Rigsbee also refers to the impact the suicide of his brother has had on his work and the presence of human mortality and humility.

Anis Shivani also profiles poets Wendy Chin-Tanner, Melissa Broder, Tyler Mills, Jenna Le, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, and fiction writers Garry Craig Powell and Justin Sirois.

The Red Tower: New & Selected Poems by David Rigsbee is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.