I have a confession: I’m actually just a Wanna-Be Southerner. You see, my formative years were spent in Mississippi, beginning with the first grade at Bramlett Elementary in Oxford and ending after five glorious years at Ole Miss. However, my dirty little secret is that I was born in Pennsylvania, or Pennsil-Tucky, as some wags here in the Gotham Metroplex like to call it. It seems everyone has to feel superior to someone, doesn’t it?
I wear the Wanna-Be Southerner label proudly up here in New Jersey, not in small part because it flummoxes the locals—they cannot imagine anyone actually wanting to be Southern. What? How can a culture built on food, music, literature and football compare to one built on congestion, snow and Snooki? Uh, not sure—there is no accounting for taste, I suppose.
It is noted that while Southerners like to say, “Southern by the grace of God,” one never hears “northern by the grace of God.” In fact, I am sure folks up here never think of saying it—and for all sorts of reasons.
Fact is that northerners believe I am a Southerner. I teach a class called “Cross-Cultural Perspectives” at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where I lay the “y’all” on pretty thick during lectures. They believe me to be from another culture—and they are correct. I relish this tiny bit of subterfuge. However, if y’all could grant me a battlefield promotion as a full-fledged Southerner for just a moment, I’ll get to my point.
Mississippi is one of a handful of states without a state poem. No state deserves one more. Perhaps it is because of Mississippi’s struggles that our home gives birth to great artists who, in turn, must suffer to create the art, music and literature that is loved worldwide. Since my expatriation to the north, and possibly because of it, I never take Mississippi for granted.
Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s submission for state poem, “Meet My Mississippi,” is faithful to the contributions, diversity and hospitality of the Magnolia State. The themes in the poem call me back home to front-porch gliders, sweet tea and magnolias, as I’m sure it would for other expatriates like Faulkner, Welty and Grisham.
Please help “Meet My Mississippi” become the state poem by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
On a final note, y’all might notice that I always capitalize “South and Southerner” but never “north or northerner.” It’s not a typo, Grammarly be damned.
MEET MY MISSISSIPPI (By Patricia Neely-Dorsey)
William Faulkner’s Sanctuary
Eudora Welty’s home state
Elvis Presley’s birthplace
The bulk of the Natchez Trace;
Choctaw Nation native land
Rolling hills of the Chickasaw band
Sprawling beaches along the Gulf Coast shore
One blues man’s Crossroads and inspiration for more;
Like Albert, B.B., Bukka, Howlin’ Wolf ,
Little Milton and Muddy Waters who came to the fore
There’s farm-raised catfish , Delta tamales, seafood galore
And warm front porch welcomes with a wide open door
Creative muse for Barq’s, Stetson, Peavey, Viking
And Henson’s famous green frog
And “Where The Southern Crosses The Yellow Dog ”
An abundance of history, tradition and folklore
With Ruins of Windsor, Vicksburg Battlefield
Emerald Mound and Pharr Mounds to explore
You’ll find an authentic Dentzel carousel merry go round
Where Jimmie Rodgers fathered a unique country sound
She’s a ride down the Mighty River on the American Queen
And some of the most beautiful countryside that you’ve ever seen
She’s music and melodies and the mockingbird’s songs,
By valor and arms and faith ever strong;
She’s magnolias blooming around Jackson’s capitol dome
With the buzz of the honeybee
And sweet scent of the honeysuckle
That forever say “home”
Since December 10, 1817
Our 20th state
The Hospitality State
Roll On Mississippi
You’re a true State of Grace.
Tim Heaton is a HottyToddy.com contributor and a true Southerner in our book. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.