Though little known today, Sidney Lanier (1842-81) was considered by some critics the leading writer of the post-Civil War New South, the greatest Southern writer after Edgar Allan Poe, and "a man of heroic and exquisite character." Lanier was a Georgian, but he spent two years after the war in Montgomery, Alabama, trying to restore his health after contracting tuberculosis while a prisoner of war. He also was principal of a school in nearby Prattville. In the 1930s, an elegant public high school was built in Montgomery and named in Lanier's honor. Author Helen Blackshear taught literature to Montgomery high school students for three decades, and her brief account of Lanier's life, especially his Montgomery period, was motivated partly from the knowledge that few today remember Lanier or his work.
Helen Blackshear's poetry combined a sense of grace and sensitivity with her wry and occasionally raucous sense of humor. His poems captured much that is beautiful and enduring, but most of all deeply human, about life in Alabama.
—Barry Marks, president, Alabama Writers Conclave