Soul of the South

February 2020

The South is a complex and imperfect place. We aim to exalt only the good and try to ignore our less progressive, least-loving aspects, but to shirk these is to tell only half of the story—of light and dark, saint and sinner. If we tug at one thread, we unravel it all.

The beauty of the South is revealed in the whole, in the sewn parts that together create what we are so loathe to leave. Usually, those who do inevitably come back. The South bears an unusually strong force, an energy field, and Southerners never lose the magnet. Despite our best intentions, our never-will-I-returns, we’re drawn here again, but maybe for one good reason—the South is home.

This issue is our ode to it, a celebration of our cultural experience. Merriam Webster defines ode as “a lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style, varying length of line, and complexity of stanza forms,” and, in the use of ode as a suffix, as a “way : path.”

Among the highlights of this issue are two stories that echo traditional Southern experience while also delivering fresh perspectives. Greenville ad agency EP+Co. and its president and chief creative officer, Con Williamson, challenged employees to present new business ideas. Williamson’s philosophy is to “unthink everything” so that nothing is off the table. Fellow colleague, and talented blacksmith, Karl Dunn created the winning pitch, an initiative called Gun Metal Forge, where he morphs old guns into craft-driven hammers, bottle openers, and knives (Line of Fire).

Asheville documentarian Pete Candler and his friend, Augusta University professor John Hayes, set out on a series of road trips in 1997 to record the South’s unseen, overlooked, and out-of-the-way places. In an ongoing web-based project called A Deeper South, they follow back roads to tucked-away corners and those in plain sight to record landscapes and people through a poetic lens. Along the way, they expose the cracks, and sometimes chasms, that continue to exist, stubbornly, recklessly, from centuries past (Framing the South).

The story of the South is ongoing, as each of us goes on with our lives. We continue to shape it, hold it, wrap it ’round our bones. The tale is ours to create, and to behold.


Blair Knobel
Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL