Working the Dirt

An Anthology of Southern Poets

Edited by Jennifer Horne

Title Details

Pages: 208

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 05/01/2003

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8131-6

List Price: $20.00


NewSouth Books

Working the Dirt

An Anthology of Southern Poets

Edited by Jennifer Horne

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  • Reviews
  • Awards

Finalist for the SIBA Book Award

A loamy volume of verse thematically inspired, Working the Dirt celebrates Southerners' connections to the land. The selected poems share themes of gardening, farming, and the rich Southern soil. The approximately one hundred poets, known and lesser-known, living and dead, include: Fred Chappell, Walter McDonald, A. R. Ammons, Robert Morgan, Wendell Berry, Henry Taylor, Tom Dent, Jesse Stuart, Jim Wayne Miller, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Marion Montgomery, James Whitehead, C. D. Wright, George Scarbrough, Ahmos Zu-Bolton II, Thad Stem, Jr., William Sprunt, Donald Justice, Thomas Rabbitt, James Dickey, Rick Lott, John Allison, Edwin Godsey, Richard Jackson, Nikki Giovanni, Alvin Aubert, Margaret Walker, Emily Hiestand, Robert Gibbons, John Stone, Coppie Green, Bonnie Roberts, Coleman Barks, Anne George, Edward Eaton, Margaret Gibson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jack Butler, R. H. W. Dillard, Jane Gentry, Rodney Jones, Dannye Romine, Miller Williams, George Garrett, Sandra Agricola, Patricia Hooper, Gerald Berrax, Gibbons Ruark, Catherine Savage Brosman, Loretta Cobb, and Pattiann Rogers.

Malls and multiple subdivisions squat on grandpa's farm, mules gone to glue, then up sprouts this callused and sweaty book, poems more doublewide than skinny, ready to sock it to the video arcades. What we got here, folks? A Bible for scarecrows? A green weed in a black crack in Wal-Mart's bad dream? A benediction and a prophecy (a fading-in-out radio station buzzsawing). The only question the good people have is: How come nothing here by the great D. C. Berry?

—David C. Berry Jr.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wannabe Southern writers north of the Mason-Dixon line, and I am one of them. The literature of the South has its own unique community of readers and writers deeply engaged with place and history, and we have nothing like that on the Great Plains. This wonderful, splendidly edited anthology makes the pain of northern exile seem even worse. I have read every poem in Working the Dirt with great delight but also with bitter Yankee envy.

—Ted Kooser, author of Local Wonders; Seasons in the Bohemian Alps

Working the Dirt is a harvest of Southern poets' best words about the land. These poems still have dirt under their fingernails, still hold cool, spring moisture on their leaves.

—Joe Survant

Some of my favorite writers are included here, with works describing some of my favorite scenes of Southern agrarian life. It’s a collection that brings back autumn orchards, fried green tomatoes, nodding sunflowers, wild strawberries, and that sharp sense of personal history, redolent of smokehouse and battlefield, for which the South is noted.

—David Ray

Virgil sanctified farming by lending it the prestige of poetry. Jennifer Horne's thoughtfully edited Working the Dirt upgrades the Roman poet by reversing the gesture: here, farming lends poetry its honor. In the process, many of the best poets America can claim leave the tug of nihilism behind and, by refreshing spirit with earth, reassert their prophetic role as bards.

—David Rigsbee

I dare anyone who loves the soil and great poetry to pick up this book for a quick browse—an impossible feat. With the finest line-up of Southern poets imaginable, from the esteemed and beloved Wendell Berry and Henry Taylor (two of my favorites) to other lesser known but gifted talents, this book bursts with the sweet promise and mystery of life a gardener feels each spring.

—Sharon Lovejoy, author of Trowel and Error, contributing editor to Country Living Gardner, and syndicated LifeBeat columnist for the New York Times


SIBA Book Awards, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance


Alabama Poet Laureate, Alabama Writers' Conclave

About the Author/Editor

JENNIFER HORNE is a poet and freelance writer who grew up in Arkansas and has lived in Alabama since 1986. She received an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and has been a university English teacher, a poetry teacher in elementary schools, and a journal, magazine, and book editor. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in journals across the Southeast, including Carolina Quarterly and the Birmingham Poetry Review. She gardens on Canyon Lake, outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama.