In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, or maybe he didn’t, but either way vast ribbons of peat came to rest under what became the foothills of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, and in time the peat became coal, and later the railroads arrived, along with mines and coke ovens, and near one lazy arc of the Tennessee River workers built homes to return to after their long days of burrowing and burning, and the homes became a town, and the town was called Dayton.
How do you write poems about a culture that has been erased from history and one you don’t fit into? Tess Taylor delved into the complications of her Southern family’s past for The Forage House and attempted to excavate the unwritten parts of their history. “The non-writing down of people is intensely violent,” she told The Oxford American in a recent interview. Pair with: Our own Michael Bourne’s essay on the collection and its implications.
"Places and lives contain all sorts of self-defeating contradictions, and in New Orleans one of the most potent was that many of the people who had come to help the city were also hurting it.”
One Saturday Mr. Purifoy appeared there, to my surprise. He was AA, or as he liked to call it, ND. The letters stood for Nameless Drunks, his jocular cacophemism for Alcoholics Anonymous. Saying the words always made him laugh.
Now to the more recent past and a place in southern New Mexico, bright land of bargain motels and fair dealing, where I was doing some research on Pancho Villa’s 1916 raid across the border. My room was in a motel I will call the Ominato Inn, not quite a dump, with a weekly rate of $130 flat, no surcharges. The price quoted was what you paid, with no tourist penalties, bed taxes, bathroom duties, or other shakedown fees piled on, such as to make a joke of the nominal price. There should have been a pair of signs out front, flashing back and forth:
NOT QUITE A DUMP AT DUMP PRICES
My life was over. I was a criminal. The worst thing a person could do, I knew, was to shoot another person. This time now, this waiting at deer camp, was the part you never saw on TV. The police were probably on the way, or talking to my father about what had happened and what would happen next. The longer he was gone, the more certain I became that he would not return. He would have no choice but to turn me over to the police. I would leave deer camp in handcuffs. My parents and sisters would visit me in jail, but there was nothing they could do. They could not change the rules. You couldn’t shoot someone and not go to jail. Having shot someone, I felt, I no longer had any claim on their affection.
The other day, I saw Cornel West on television say that Lil Wayne’s physical body bears witness to tragedy. I don’t even know what that means, but I do think that Wayne’s artistic persona is a testament to damage.
Eternal Reefs is a company that mixes the cremated ashes of your loved one with a cement compound to create part of an artificial coral reef. The company encourages the bereaved to participate in the creation of the artificial ‘reef balls,’ and to oversee their deliverance into the ocean at one of several designated offshore reef beds.
Who invented ska music? John Jeremiah Sullivan traces the history of the genre in his latest essay for The Oxford American. “The more the claims for Rosco Gordon’s supremacy as a ska progenitor seem not out of proportion, and the less crazy it feels to say that, in a sense, ska was born in Tennessee.” Pair with: Sullivan’s essay on Bunny Wailer, who makes a cameo in his ska essay.
From the ages of nine to eleven, I worked as a spy. No one paid me, nor did I report my findings to any higher-ups. I discussed my cases with my partner, who went by code name Mountain Chicken Mother of the Buddha.