Winner of the 2016 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, SOUTHERN TONGUES LEAVE US SHINING explores the South and its history through the eyes of the living, the dead, and the in between.
“’Language is the fire that survives us’ Mark Wagenaar writes, and we are seared gladly by his brilliant flames. A pilgrim in the ‘Christ-haunted South,’ as Flannery O’Connor describes it, these poems reckon with the sins of history and the human-made scars on the natural world. The songs of Charles Wright, Rilke, and Blind Willie Johnson have tuned Wagenaar’s ear, but the music is his own, irresistibly so. SOUTHERN TONGUES LEAVE US SHINING is a brave and difficult grappling, ending with the difficult joy of a child’s birth and the world’s subsequent remaking. This is, simply put, poetry that adds to the glory of the human endeavor.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, author of HEATING & COOLING
“In SOUTHERN TONGUES LEAVE US SHINING, there is a rapturous beauty that encompasses the American South, the United States, and the world, a poetic rooted in the space around the poet and extending outward to the world with questioning, compassion, grief, and hope. The lines have an aching eloquence bustling with a truer Southern verve, one recognizable by those who know it and appreciable by those who have yet to know it. There are many lines in this collection that take me up in a swoop and carry me along the terrain of now and never.”—Afaa M. Weaver, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, final judge of the 2016 Benjamin Saltman Award