From A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia
Southern Humanities Review is published in Auburn, Alabama, at the Southernmost reaches of the boundaries by which Horace Kephart defined Southern Appalachia in his seminal writing about the region. There are many differing ideas about where Southern Appalachia is, but more numerous—and more interesting than arguments about boundaries’ ends—is the variety of life this region includes. It’s one of the most biodiverse places on earth. To put its diversity of life in perspective, consider: There are more species of fish in the state of Tennessee than in all of Europe. There are nearly 10,000 known species living in Southern Appalachia and more discovered every year. Southern Appalachia also, despite what the preponderance of stereotypes may suggest, has a highly diverse human population.
A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia—a combined literary and natural history anthology published by University of Georgia Press in October 2019—is a guide to getting to know the species of Southern Appalachia, and to understanding the place and in broader, poetic senses as well. The hybrid anthology brings together contemporary poems, most of which were commissioned for the project, original illustrations, and natural history information for a selection of representative and distinctive trees and plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and fungi. A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia follows the model of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide from The University of Arizona Press, edited by Eric Magrane and Christopher Cokinos. Hopefully, these books will soon be joined by literary field guides to the Green Mountains and Pacific Northwest, as well as other areas, as the idea spreads.
SHR does not want to limit its content to that which is Southern, and indeed, seeks to expand and complicate the expectations people might have about what might appear in a journal with “Southern” in its title. This feature is offering material that is close to home—a glimpse into a book about the region that is, like SHR, co-edited by me—because it showcases a sampling of the cliché-defying art being created in Southern Appalachia. Ranging from the close connection to human experience and continuation of traditional form in L. Lamar Wilson’s sonnet for the whip-poor-will, to Holly Haworth’s wide-sweeping lines devoted to praising the strangely-named fish, Chucky Madtom, scientifically known in only half a mile of one stream, there are so many examples fine craft and wild creatures to admire here.
POEM BY MELISSA RANGE ARTWORK BY BILLY RENKL
POEM BY ANNA LENA PHILLIPS BELL ARTWORK BY ALLYSON COMSTOCK
Eastern Wood Rat
POEM BY NICKOLE BROWN ARTWORK BY LANDON GODFREY
POEM BY ADRIAN BLEVINS ARTWORK BY ALLYSON COMSTOCK
POEM BY L. LAMAR WILSON ARTWORK BY GARY HAWKINS
POEM BY REBECCA GAYLE HOWELL ARTWORK BY BILLY RENKL
POEM BY SEAN HILL ARTWORK BY BILLY RENKL
POEM BY HOLLY HAWORTH ARTWORK BY SUZANNE STRYK
Black Carpenter Ant
POEM BY MOLLY MCCULLY BROWN ARTWORK BY DAN POWELL
American Caterpillar Fungus
POEM BY SUSAN O'DELL UNDERWOOD ARTWORK BY HENRY SHEARON
Eastern Box Turtle
POEM BY DEBORAH MIRANDA ARTWORK BY ALLYSON COMSTOCK