Poet James Dickey on Carter and the Born-Again South

"A thrust provided by Southern ascendancy."

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This story originally appeared in the April 18, 1977, issue of U.S.News & World Report.

"A thrust provided by Southern ascendancy"
This country is on a tremendously exciting, creative course which is going to hold untold increments of good and release and delight for all of us, as a result of the ascendancy of the South and the election of Jimmy Carter as President of our benighted republic.

Of course, there will also be frustrations because of various domestic and international situations. But what we need and have now is a thrust provided by Southern ascendancy and its particualr brand of kindness, fellowship, tolerance and easygoingness.

"New kind of feeling of people for each other"
For many years, the South was thought of by the rest of the country as racist and intolerant, but that has never really been true expect in some isolated instances.

Most Southerners are extremely tolerant and wish nothing but good for their fellow men. The men are good to each other; the men are good to the women; the women are good to each other, and the women are good to the men. They have a kind of salty, slightly rough burr to them, but they are essentially sympathetic to each other.

And when that Southern influence spreads through-out the country, as is happening now, you're going to see a good, new kind of feeling of people for each other.

Where Southern literary tradition comes from
The South has produced so many important writers—such as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor and Tennessee Williams—because the region until recently was a rural area in which people's entertainment had to do with storytelling rather than television or radio. People would sit around and talk for hours and tell stories—and out of this time came the great writers.

Imagine sitting out on the front porch on a nice, warm night with a friend, and he says:

"You know, I knew this fellow down at Douglasville, and he was walking up the road about this time of night, and something strange happened to him. And I'm going to tell you about it."

You're already hooked, because you want to know what happened.

That's where the Southern literary tradition comes from.

"A beautiful new kind of poetry is emerging"
For too long, poetry was obscure and weighed down with symbolism. Writers like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound—much as I revere those two masters—took poetry too far into the library and graduate schools. Poetry had too much heavy literary apparatus and required too much analysis.

But now a beautiful new kind of poetry, clear and meaninful, is emerging. People really need poets now because language has been so abused by advertisers, journalists and newscasters, who are always making designs on us through the use of words.

Poetry doesn't make you want to buy razor blades or vote for a candidate. It makes you want to be as you wish to be of your volition, and expresses feelings you weren't able to articulate before.

It's the last place left that supplies the magic of language for communication between one person and another—and in depth.