Introduction to Poets Under 30

by Ashley Johnson & Jake Adam York

From the smooth narrative-like lines of Tara Powell to the harsh and seemingly broken ruminations of Spencer Marstiller, the cadence of these ‘Poets Under Thirty’ represents something much greater than the title implies.  Plainly put these are the best that the young South has to offer.  Each brings new life to the business of writing poetry in the South in ways that create surprise both within individual poems and in the kinship these poems find with one another.

The works of these ‘new’ writers each resonates with a certain indeterminable quality.  Some would quickly, and in some instances dismissively, label this work as ‘Southern’.  But to cage the work as such is to miss what they offer in abundance,  the musicality of human experience, those moments which define us.  From Tara Powell’s place specific ‘Motoring Home Down the Canal, I Heard the NPR Astronomer Claim,’ to Kimberly Martz’s poem ‘Scar,’ it’s music laid across such harsh imagery.  Perhaps that is actually where the music of the moment lies, crouched between the disjointed union of language and experience, as Frost called it ‘the abstract vitality of our speech.’  The vitality of these poems is unquestionable.  They seethe with life and the unmistakable heat that accompanies it.

Five of our poets were discovered through the recommendations of some of our most accomplished Southern poets. From Michael McFee came Tara Powell. From Ron Bayes came Spencer Marstiller. From Natasha Trethewey came Kimberly Martz. Beth Ann Fennelly nominated James Everett, and Bob Collins sent us Daniel Robbins. That these young poets have already earned the respect of such talents is already powerful testimony to their work.

But, in the end, the poems prove themselves in every case, both with the poets who came to us through nominations, recommendations, and the encouragements of their mentors, and with those—Nate Pritts and Adam Clay—whose poems singled out themselves in our reading process.

Everywhere there is a plenty, an abundance that may not only testify to our current health but promise better years ahead.

–Ashley Johnson, Editor, Poets Under 30 Feature
–Jake Adam York, Poetry Editor