"There's a real flowering, I think, of southern poetry right now, . . . assembling at the edges of everything." This observation by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Wright reflects upon the continuing vibrancy and importance of the southern poetic tradition. Although the death of James Dickey in 1997 left southern poetry without a recognizably dominant voice, an array of other vibrant voices continue to be heard and recognized. Southbound: Interviews with Southern Poets provides detailed discussion of the art and craft of poetry by many writers who promise to keep southern poetry vital into the twenty-first century.
Beginning with an interview with the late literary giant James Dickey, Southbound collects the ideas and insights of both well-known and rising southern poets, including Dave Smith, Charles Wright, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Rodney Jones. Suarez's guiding principle for conducting and revising the interviews was to let the poets express themselves as clearly and fully as possible. Each interview is ultimately defined by the poet's own personality and voice, yet all explore similar themes—the relationship between technique and subject, the nature of the southern canon and each poet's place in it, and the state of contemporary poetry. As Dave Smith relates, "My sense of appreciation of what life means or could mean, whatever I know about life, stems from a sense of place, a sense of the ghostliness of meaning." It is this sense of place and meaning that Suarez allows each poet to convey truthfully in his interviews.
Including a brief introduction to each interview and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources for each poet, Southbound is a useful tool for scholars and a springboard for casual readers. More important, this collection of interviews makes a significant contribution to the tradition of southern poetry and its most prominent voices.