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2017 Reviews > My Mississippi by Laura Sobbott Ross

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message 1: by Jenna (last edited Jul 20, 2017 06:46PM) (new)

Jenna (jennale) | 946 comments I haven’t read a ton of contemporary verse originating from the Deep South: Erica Dawson’s The Small Blades Hurt and Tanya Olson’s Boyishly did make an impression on me in recent years, but in general Dixie is a geographic region with whose present-day poets I am relatively unfamiliar. (I love quite a few Deep South singer-songwriters, like Lucinda Williams and Iris Dement, but maybe that's a different conversation.) It was all the more a novel experience, then, to dive into the rich imagery of the chapbook My Mississippi by Laura Sobbott Ross, a poet with deep roots in the titular state. This is, in my opinion, one of the most unique features of Ross’s (and my) publisher, Louisiana-based Anchor & Plume Press: its staunch willingness, in the face of whatever metropolitan fashions may dictate, to amplify the songs of places as strange and far-flung, as thickly overgrown with local pieties and traditions, as kudzu-covered Mississippi and rural Kansas and the small mountain communities of Virginia. Publishers like Anchor & Plume, whose avowed mission is to “celebrate language and place,” are arguably vital in today’s world, where, despite the seeming interconnectedness with which the internet has gifted us, there remain undeniable divides in understanding and empathy between people of different classes and climes.

Though my own formative years were spent in the American Midwest and Northeast, I connected with many of the tableaux Ross paints in these poems: for example, I was reminded of my own landlocked Minnesota youth by “An Ocean, A Notion,” which describes how the speaker’s Mississippi-raised mother “had never / seen the tide change. An ocean, a notion. / They sounded the same. Something frothy // as dishwater combing sand.” Similarly, I was put in mind of long childhood bus rides through Iowa cornfields by this breathtaking description of a Southern “grandmother’s house” in the luxuriously sensual four-part lyric “Fly”: “The horizon beyond was so flat you were sure / the neighbors on the other side of it could hear you sigh.” Beauty and unease are inextricable for the white Southern women who populate these poems, of whom Ross says, with skilled restraint and nuance, “Whatever never broke in her must have / loved the fertile-swept earth….” Largely, it is the never-gone wounds of history that make it so: “Indigo       cotton       corn       tobacco       sugarcane / The word slaves hisses, growls, spits off the tongue— / tinder and flint.”

a thousand ways to say it—Mississippi in June:
the wilted frill, the skimming train, trumpet
flower blazing, horizon, hunger, river, ghost

message 2: by Nina (new)

Nina | 1027 comments Another fine review that adds a previously unknown to me poet and her work to my list. Thank you, Jenna

message 3: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jennale) | 946 comments Nina wrote: "Another fine review that adds a previously unknown to me poet and her work to my list. Thank you, Jenna"

Thank you for reading and leaving your kind comments, Nina.

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