Mencken's stinging characterization of the American South as "the Sahara of the Bozart" reflects an understandable frustration with the narrow view of the canon of southern literature. With its focus on novelists, it largely ignores the works of all but a few poets—the Fugitives Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, and John Crowe Ransom, and the larger-than-life James Dickey among them. Invited Guest is the first anthology that attempts to reach beyond this small coterie to encompass the range and brilliance of twentieth-century southern poetry. Editors David Rigsbee and Steven Ford Brown have compiled the works of a richly diverse collection of poets—all born or raised southerners.

Women and African Americans are recognized for their alternative, subversive contributions to southern aesthetics; the myopic, often scathing views of the New Critics or the overly historicist agendas of identity politics are discarded in favor of a middle ground that allows for inclusion on both aesthetic and historical bases.

Along with a respectful acknowledgement of the contributions of the most popular figures in southern poetry, Rigsbee and Brown offer long-overdue attention to underrecognized poets such as Anne Spencer, John Beecher, Eleanor Ross Taylor, and Alice Dunbar Nelson. The juxtaposition of the canonical and the little-known makes Invited Guest an intriguing illustration of the abundance and range of poetry in the twentieth-century South.

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