Beauty Is Truth, Truth Beauty, Both a Bar Brawl

Emily Dickinson said you know you’ve read a great poem when it makes you feel as though the top of your head has been blown off. But for me, when reading great Southern writers, it feels more like being sucker-punched in the gut, the wind knocked out of you, simultaneous terror and wild thrill. Last night I read again the short story “How Far She Went” by Mary Hood. Here’s just a hint of the atmosphere: “Dead limbs creaked and clashed overhead like the antlers of locked and furious beasts.” And the ending–ow. My ribs still ache. I get the same reaction with David Bottoms’s poems, like “Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump” and “Wrestling Angels,” and Jim Grimsley’s novel Winter Birds, and every line of verse by Judson Mitcham–the first part of “Notes for a Prayer in June” breaks my heart and mesmerizes eye and ear: “The other boys lived, / and a prayer grew from this: / the unbelievable sadness of chance / and the shattering dazzle of glass still strewn, / days later, on the road.” Ow. And: More, please.

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