login | Register

RiverVue Dispatch Archives

James Franco's Film Adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy Book Child of God

James Franco’s Adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God This morning I watched James Franco’s film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s third novel Child of God. Since read more...


Ace Atkins' Latest Book The Redeemers

The Redeemers By Ace Atkins I just finished The Redeemers, a fine book by Mississippi writer Ace Atkins.... Born June 28, 1970, in Troy, Alabama, Ace Atkins played football at Auburn University, and even graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1993 read more...


"A Momentary Stay" : Musings on the Poetry of Harry Moore


A Trip Back in Time: A Review of Bob Keefe's "Stories From the Okefenokee"

In 1969 a young Marine returning to civilian life after a tour of duty as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam found refuge in a remote and primal place in the Deep South, the Okefenokee Swamp. The Marine's name was Bob Keefe, and he spent five wonderful years in the swamp, working as a read more...


The Magic of the Shoals: The Lindsey Film Fest Screening of "Muscle Shoals"

Not since the sold out Drive-By Truckers/ Decoys concert during the 2011


"A Heaping Helping: Songs for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of AL" by Scott Ward

This week I had the pleasure of chatting via Facebook with Alabama musician Scott Ward, producer and director at Lucky Dog Records. Ward has just produced a digital CD designed to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama. The CD which features 23 tracks by read more...


Swinging With The Duke at the 2012 W. C. Handy Festival

The Righteous Brothers may sing about a "rock and roll heaven," but when I die I want to go to jazz heaven. And if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a jazz vocalist.   I was in jazz heaven for two hours Tuesday read more...


Mayberry is Alive and Well in Rogersville, Alabama

Henry David Thoreau went to the woods because he wanted to "live deliberately." I go to Rogersville, Alabama. Rogersville is a progressive little town that has managed to keep the flavor of a time gone by. read more...


Life Lessons in The Big Easy by Martha Gragido

There’s something maternal about a train. It carries you where you need to go and rocks you along, sheltering as new horizons flash past your window. Places you’ve never been. Places that have never known the press of your weight. (The bathrooms on the train read more...


Award Winning Author Joshilyn Jackson at Northeast Alabama Community College

Award-winning novelist Joshilyn Jackson will be the featured author for the Arts and Humanities Speaker’s Forum at Northeast Alabama Community College on April 19, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. Jackson’s presentation will be held in the Tom Bevill Lyceum and is free to


Author Judith Ortiz Cofer at Calhoun College Writers' Conference, April 11, 2013

Latina writer and storyteller Judith Ortiz Cofer will be speaking at Calhoun Community College's 12th annual Writers' Conference on Thursday, April  11, at 9:30 a.m. in the Aerospace Training Center. She will speak again at 7 in the evening at the Princess Theatre. Both read more...


"How Do You Like Your Blueeyed Boy, Mr. Death": Harry Crews (1935-2012)

Harry Crews! I guess I thought he would live forever. When all of those years of out of control drinking did not kill him, I decided he had outwitted the devil. That would be just like Crews--to make a wager with the devil and win.   When a great read more...


The University of North Alabama Presents Renowned Author Ishmael Reed

On Monday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 20, the University of North Alabama (Florence, Alabama) will present its 29th annual Spring Writers' Series. The featured speaker this year is internationally known poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright Ishmael Reed. Reed will read more...


Swampland Guest Patsy Glenn Writes about Brandon Sparkman and "Called to Jackson"

My long-time friend Patsy Glenn is a freelance writer residing in Florence, Alabama. Glenn joins Swampland to talk about a local hero, Brandon Sparkman, and his recently published book Called to Jackson, Mississippi: The Last Bastion of Segregation (iuniverse


Alabama's Own Wickedly Spicy Wickles Pickles---Made in Dadeville, AL

2011 was the year of Alabama music, and 2012 is the year of Alabama food. Several months ago I wrote about two phenomenal products unique to Alabama:


Rebecca Meredith, Author of The Last of the Pascagoula, Has Alabama Roots

I discovered Rebecca Woods Meredith when I received a copy of her spellbinding novel, The Last of the Pascagoula read more...


Alabama Born, Auburn Educated Octavia Spencer Wins Golden Globe

The 2011 fall issue of the Auburn University alumni magazine featured a stunning photo of Octavia Spencer on the cover, not as Minny, the feisty maid in Tate Taylor's movie of Kathryn Stockett's The Help, but as Octavia Spencer, celebrated actress and a possible


A Conversation with Jerry Masters: "Hanging From A Tree By My Knees"

Jerry Masters, musician and sound engineer for nearly every hit record cut in the Shoals from the late 60s through the early 70s, and I met for breakfast at Cafe Savanna in Rogersville, Alabama, this past August. I had heard by way of Facebook that Masters


Meet Poet and Poetry Therapist Jerri Chaplin

Jerri Chaplin is a certified poetry therapist and poet. She served as the first poet-in-residence at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston (1996). Her work has been read more...


Shakin' in Alabama with the Alabama Shakes--Souful Music Near the Shoals

The small town of Athens, Alabama (not Athens, Georgia) has made national music news thanks to the hot new group Alabama Shakes. Three of the four band members hail from East Limestone High School in read more...


Poem in Remembrance: World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011

Twenty years ago a friend of mine died of AIDS. He was the first person I ever knew personally to die of this disease. He was young and talented and beautiful, and the last time I saw him he seemed completely well. Then I heard that he had died. Shortly after read more...


New Orleans in Alabama: Brenda Marie Osbey--and Lagniappe--Poet Jane Hirshfield

This October I traveled to New Orleans to see my good friends David Lummis (author of


5th Annual Storytelling Festival Pays Tribute to Kathryn Tucker Windham

by Rick Mould, Guest Editor, Athens State University On Thursday evening October 27 in Athens, Alabama, there will be a storyteller’s tribute to one of the festival’s best friends – Kathryn Tucker Windham – who passed away earlier this read more...


Meet New Orleans Author and Photographer: Kristin Fouquet

Reading the short stories of Kristin Fouquet, writer and photographer par excellence, is like eating bon bons. You just have to have one more. Fouquet writes with a photographer's eye for detail, seeing beneath read more...


Coming Soon from History Press: "Rocket City Rock and Soul" by Jane DeNeefe

The History Press will release Rocket City Rock and Soul: Huntsville Musicians Remember the 1960s by Huntsville read more...


Documentary About the Life of Rick Bragg "Out of the Dirt" to Premiere In Alabama

The world premiere of Out of the Dirt, a documentary film about the life of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Rick Bragg, will be held at the IMAX Theare in the McWane Science read more...


What's All This Hullabaloo About "The Help"?

Two years ago, shortly after Kathryn Stockett 's novel The Help was released, I wrote a review of the book for Swampland. I never published the review because I was ambivalent about the novel, and everyone I knew was singing its praises. The Help quickly made read more...


"The Coffee Shop Chronicles" Featured in New Orleans Course at University of Montevallo

David Lummis' novel The Coffee read more...


The Secret To a Happy Ending: The Decoys, DBT, and a Sunday Jam at Dick Cooper's

According to The Drive-By Truckers, the secret to a happy ending is knowing when to run the credits. This week in the Shoals the secret to a read more...


Handy Festival 2011: Rocking the Shoals with Ken Watters and Microwave Dave

This week is Handy Fest 2011, and I was in the Shoals on Monday night, sitting in the Zodiac Theatre in downtown Florence, Alabama, with Randy, my sister Peggy, and a friend


Drive-By Truckers To Headline 2011 W.C. Handy Festival in Florence, AL

A concert by the Drive-By Truckers with special guests The Decoys,  along with music icons Donnie Fritts and Spooner Oldham, will read more...


A "Found Poem" on Craig's List--Thorsby, AL, June 22, 2011

Free Donkeys (3)    found and arranged  by Penne J. Laubenthal (photo from www) My mom won 3 read more...


Billy C Farlow Tours in Europe to Promote "Alabama Swamp Stomp"

Blues harmonica player and songwriter Billy C Farlow left last week for a month tour of France and surrounding countries to promote his new album


Billy Reid Shindig in Florence, AL, June 3-4, 2011

Next weekend (June 3-4) will mark the third anniversary of the annual Billy Reid Shindig in Florence, Alabama.


The Civil Wars Play Tornado Benefit at Historic Shoals Theatre in Florence, AL

Once again the marvelously magical duo, The Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White), took the stage in front of a sold-out house and a wildly enthusiastic audience. This time they were read more...


Meet Matthew Nolan, Poet and Resident of New Orleans

Matthew Nolan, who subtitles his books "A New Orleans Poet," is the author of two collections of poetry and prose: Crumpled Paper Dolls (2004) and Exhuming Juliet (2009).  read more...


Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitizer Prize Winning Journalist, To Speak at University of North Alabama

Isabel Wilkerson, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in the history of journalism, will be speaking at the University of North Alabama (in Florence, Alabama) at 12:30 PM, Thursday, April 14. read more...


Rock and Roll in the Rocket City Continues with Part 3 by Jane DeNeefe

Swampland is celebrating The Year of Alabama Music with a series of articles by Jane DeNeefe about rock & roll music in read more...


Delta Born Blues Legend Pinetop Perkins Dies at 97

Grammy award winning blues pianist Pinetop Perkins died yesterday, March 21, of cardiac arrest at the age of 97. Perkins, whose real first name was Willie, read more...


Alabama Blues Musician Debbie Bond Pays Tribute to Eddie Kirkland (1923-2011)

The funeral service for Eddie Kirkland, "Gypsy of the Blues," was held on Monday, March 7, in Macon, Georgia. Friends came from far and wide to pay tribute to the 87-year-old blues legend who was killed in read more...


Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby James

James Taylor, icon of the music world, is celebrating his 63rd birthday today His debut album "James Taylor" (on the British label Apple) was released in the US in February of 1969. A reviewer for Rolling Stone called the album "the coolest breath of fresh read more...


"If You're Not Living on the Edge, Then You're Taking Up Space": Flo Kennedy

Most people are familiar with the life and career of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, but how many people are familiar with her contemporary-- the flamboyant and vociferous


The Second Cooler: Documentary by Alabama Filmmaker Ellin Jimmerson

The Second Cooler or Le Segunda Nevera is a documentary film by Ellin Jimmerson, Alabama filmmaker, that asks the questions: why are there twelve million Latin American migrants in the United States illegally and why do thousands not survive the border read more...


Meet Tasia Malakasis of Belle Chevre--Alabama's Artisanal Goat Cheese Creamery

If you have not yet tasted Belle Chevre, Alabama's fabulous artisanal goat cheese, you are in for a treat. A couple of weeks ago Randy and I drove about twenty minutes north of Athens, Alabama, to the tiny fromagerie of Belle read more...


R. Garth Reflects On a Concert by The Civil Wars

Last night my friend and fellow writer Richard Garth (author of the Tales from Blue Springs series) attended a concert by the duo The Civil Wars. The concert was held at the WorkPlay Theatre near the University of Alabama Birmingham (Alabama). I asked Richard, who read more...


An "Ardent Spirit" Departs: Reynolds Price 1933-2011

Award winning author and longtime Duke professor Reynolds Price died Thursday, January 20, from complications following a heart attack just over a week before his 78th birthday. Price had been a paraplegic since 1984 when surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his spine ("the read more...


Celebrating The Year of Alabama Music with a Series of Articles by Jane DeNeefe

This year, 2011, we are celebrating the Year of Alabama Music. The December 2010 issue of the Oxford American features read more...


Swampland 2011: "Crossing the Creek" and The Year of Alabama Music

Happy New Year to all you Swamplanders. I apologize for the long hiatus between this post and my last one, but the holidays caught me off guard, and I was running in place for about six weeks. My resolution for 2011 is to complete tasks in a timely fashion. I am read more...


The Way We Were: From the Kitchen Sink to Bea's Beauty Shop

My mother desperately wanted little girls with little curls right in the middle of their foreheads. To that end, she spent years torturing my sister and me in the kitchen sink with Tonis! She would wind our hair tightly on pink plastic rollers and then douse the rollers in a foul read more...


Alabama Designer Billy Reid Wins Prestigious CFDA Fashion Award

Vogue magazine has announced that Alabama clothing designer Billy Reid has received the 2010 CFDA Fashion Fund award. The award, read more...


Southern Literary Trail Celebrates W. B. Huie Centennial

Hartselle, Alabama, native and best selling novelist William Bradford Huie would have celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday, November 13, 2010. To commemorate the


Saluting Our Veterans and My Dear Friends Frank and Nell Lutz

Today is Veterans Day--a day on which we pay tribute to all those who served this country in the armed services. Today is especially meaningful to me because it gives me an opportunity to honor two of my favorite World War II veterans: my long time friends and erstwhile neighbors read more...


Alabama Born Matt Cain Pitches Shut Out for SF Giants in Game 2

Matt Cain, powerful and versatile pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, showed his stuff last night when he pitched a nearly perfect game shutting out the Texas Rangers 9-0. Cain threw about 102 pitches before he was relieved in the seventh inning. What a way to continue the read more...


Storytelling in the South--"Life: Legends and Lies" in Athens, Alabama

Mark Twain may be one of the best known storytellers of all time and, by his own admission, one of the biggest liars, but the art of storytelling did not die out with the passing of Mark Twain one hundred years ago read more...


Caught Glove-Handed: Stone Crabbing in the Gulf of Mexico

"Did you catch them or buy them?" I asked my son John Laubenthal when he sent me this photo. " I caught them glove-handed," he replied. John lives on the lagoon in Panama City and catches/eats all things marine. The apple does not fall far from read more...


Double Whammy: The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans and Books-A-Million

This week I am excited to provide the Swampland audience with a double whammy. My friend David Lummis' novel


Great Places in America: The BMA Sculpture Garden in Birmingham, Alabama

The American Planning Association (APA) recently named the Charles Ireland Sculpture Garden at the


It's Never Too Late To Read a Banned Book

I recommend that you start with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or perhaps All The King's Men, or even To Kill A Mockingbird which just celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The great poet T.S. Eliot once said that his parents forbade him to read more...


Billy C. Farlow, Mercy Band, and Alabama Swamp Stomp

Hold on to your habaneros. Blues legend Billy C. Farlow is once again having too much fun with a brand new cd, and he is hotter than ever. In the spring of 2009, Billy C. read more...


Inside Alabama Politics: Fish Frys, Barbecues, and Chittlin' Suppers

According to my friend Dr. Susan Parker, Alabama politics is not just about politics; it is about food and lots of it. No political rally is complete without a read more...


Filming "The Help": News and Blues in the Delta-- Greenwood, MS

About seven miles east of Greenwood, MS, the rolling hills suddenly go flat, a sure sign you are entering the Delta.  We had driven to Greenwood via the leisurely


Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan--Twenty Years After His Tragic Death

Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, called by many the greatest blues guitarist since Jimi Hendrix, died read more...


Hot Haitian Jazz and a Cool New Album by RIYEL (Watters, Atkins, and Abel)

Jazz trumpeter and Alabama native Ken Watters has joined with several of the country's top musicians to form an eclectic and exciting jazz group called


Jimmy Dean--"Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham"

Jimmy Dean, who died on June 13 of this year, would have been 82 years old today, August 10.  In honor of his birthday, I prepared his fabulous low fat turkey sausage for breakfast. To tell the truth, I have read more...


Oldtimers Charades or "You Know Where She Sits in Church"

As I approach yet another birthday, I try even harder to find the humor in aging. Here is my latest attempt. Southerners have never let anything, including a sudden total loss of recall, interfere with good conversation.


Roadtrip to the Shoals: Billy Reid Couture, Trowbridge's Ice Cream, and Sweetwater Plantation

 I just bought my first Billy Reid. No, not Armani or Versace. Much better!!! Billy Reid, whose creations read more...


Looking Good at Sixty-Three--Jimmy Buffett Rocks the Gulf Coast

Been there, done that, have the pictures to prove it, but I wish I had been in Gulf Shores last night for the Jimmy Buffett and Friends Benefit Concert. Thanks to CMT, a portion of the concert was read more...


Reading "The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans" by David Lummis

Perhaps because I was an English professor for most of my life, friends are always asking me what good book I have read recently. Well, I am happy to report that I have


Music For A Cause: Benefit Concerts from Nashville to Gulf Shores

One week after country music stars rallied to raise over $2 million for Nashville, TN, flood relief,Jimmy Buffet will give a benefit concert live from


Alabama Authors To SIgn Books at Keller Festival in Tuscumbia

As a part of the 32th Annual Helen Keller Festival held this week in Tuscumbia, Alabama, several Alabama authors will be signing their read more...


Rare William Faulkner Collection Auctioned by Christie's in NYC

A collection of William Faulkner memorabilia primarily including first editions (some inscribed) of his novels, manuscripts, personal correspondence (a telegram to read more...


Alabama Bred Artist Paxton Creates Pelican Belt Buckle To Help Save Gulf Coast

My talented nephew, California artist and Elk River native Paxton (Mobley), has been creating fine art for over twenty years and has become a favorite with collectors. Recently, he began desiging original belt read more...


Alabama Author Albert Murray Symposium and Book Launch at Lincoln Center

Two of my good friends, Jeanie Thompson (poet and Executive Director of the Alabama Writers Forum) and


More Music, Moviemaking, and the Annual Helen Keller Festival in the Shoals

You know it's summer in Alabama when the annual Helen Keller Festival week is about to commence. This year the 32nd annual festival in Tuscumbia, AL, (one of the four cities in the Shoals) will run read more...


Sweet Home Alabama and Bitter Politics

Mudslinging has reached new heights in the rainsoaked red clay of Alabama. Gone are the usual  insinuations and innuendo, and in their place are vicious verbal attacks. Party lines have been crossed, and insults have become downright personal.


More Muscle Shoals Soul: Percussionist Jimmy "BeBop" Evans

Yesterday I was having breakfast at Cafe Savanna  in Rogersville, AL, with my dear friends Susan and Paul read more...


The Black Keys, Band of Horses, and the Magic of Muscle Shoals

"Soul nirvana" is what one writer calls Muscle Shoals, that area of the Quad Cities in northwest Alabama where such legendary musicians as


Sister Schubert: From a Sunporch in Alabama to the Corporate Boardroom

I have been a fan of Sister Schubert rolls since I popped the first delectable morsel in my mouth some 15 years ago. The name Sister Schubert is a household word in my family, my sister's family, my daughter's read more...


Holly Hollman Writes about the Dying Art of Shoe Repair

RiverVue's guest writer for this week is journalist Holly Hollman of the Decatur Daily . The following


April is the Busiest Month: Alabama and New Orleans

Every week in April has been busy with a literary or cultural event in the state of Alabama including the Alabama Book Festival, an annual event in


Excursion to New Orleans

What an amazing adventure I have had in Louisiana this past week. I am starting a series on Swampland about my adventures in the Crescent City (see New Orleans


Tom Kimmel at 9th Annual Writers Conference, Calhoun College, Decatur, AL

I just returned from a long weekend in the Crescent City, but I don't plan to miss the annual writers conference on Thursday, April 15, at Calhoun read more...


New Orleans and the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival 2010

I don't get down to New Orleans nearly so often as I would like although it is a place close to my heart. New Orleans is one of my top three cities in America, along with


Pioneering Alabama Civil RIghts Photographer Charles Moore Dies

The year was 1963. I picked up a copy of the May Life Magazine and was appalled to see  graphic  images of fire hoses and police dogs being turned on helpless protesters in


Tribute to Southern Literary Icon Barry Hannah

Award winning Southern author Barry Hannah died Monday, March 1, at his home in Oxford, MS. read more...


Sweet Home Alabama: Movie Making and Music in Muscle Shoals

A Pitch Video, like a "Demo Reel" in the music business, about the music of the Muscle Shoals entitled "Sweet Home Alabama--The Music of Muscle read more...


Grandma Got Run Over By A Treadmill or Southern Belles at Midlife

First of all let me say that I am not a grandmother, but I am old enough to be one. That being said, I will continue with the story. In an effort to level the playing field in the never-ending battle against bulge, my sister (did I mention she weighs 122 read more...


The Strange Case of Dr. Amy Bishop

As the story behind the fatal shootings at the University of Alabama-Huntsville on Friday, Feb 13, begins to unfold, the actual facts behind the incident become more and more obscure. First of all, those who were victims of the read more...


New Information on William Faulkner's Historical Sources Comes to LIght

According to an article in this week's New York Times (February 11, 2010), a Southern literature scholar from Emory read more...


Frigid February Is Hot Month for Arts in South

Temperatures may be hovering around freezing in the south in February, but the mercury is rising in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama when it comes to the fine arts The first weekend in February marks the 7th Annual Oxford read more...


Favre Still Rules Though Saints March and Vikings Retreat

I would not want to be Brett Favre this morning---over forty, utterly frustrated, and physically and emotionally devastated. However, this Mississippi born grand old man of football is my hero, and he's not done read more...


Crimson Tide Rules: Alabama Celebrates in Life and Art

It was like the closing of the Red Sea in the Rose Bowl Stadium in


Happy BIrthday Week: Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips (Sun Records)

Today, January 8, Elvis Presley would have celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday. On Tuesday, January 5, Sam Phillips, the man who read more...


Yellow Dogs and Blue Dogs: Alabama's Three? Dog Night

I know what a Yellow Dog is. A Yellow Dog is a Democrat who would vote the Democratic ticket even if he or she had to vote for a yellow (aka "yaller" dog). But what on earth is a


Alabama Stocking Stuffers

Still stumped for stocking stuffers this Christmas? What about giving the lasting gift of art, music, film, or literature by Alabama authors, artists, musicians, and filmmakers this holiday season ? Here are just a few of the must-haves that will please any readers on read more...


Guest Writer for this Week Reminds us To Count Our Blessings

As Christmas grows closer and 2009, which has been a difficult year for everyone, draws to a close, some of us may find it a bit more difficult than usual  to count our blessings. The South has been extremely hard hit by the recession. Friends have lost their read more...


A Christmas Miracle: White Pelicans Return to Elk River

White Pelicans are a rarity on Elk River. I had never seen one north of Gulf Shores, but on Christmas morning of 2007,  a read more...


Alabama Actress Kim Dickens in HBO Series "Treme"

Treme, a made for television series set the the historic area of 


SEC Championship: The Long Road to the Rose Bowl Stadium

The day was September 12, 1970. The integrated football team of University of Southern California met the all-white team of the University of Alabama at


Meet Alabama Author Anita Miller Garner

This week Swampland reviews Anita Miller Garner's recently published collection of short stories: Undeniable Truths. read more...


Shades of Thanksgivings Past: Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder

As we approach another holiday season, I thought I would repost an article I wrote the week after Thanksgiving one year ago. I called it "PTSD: Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder." . ------- December 7, 2008 Well, here we are again. Thanksgiving has read more...


SEC Football:Don't Spill Bourbon On My Mink--Or My Donna Karan

This Friday's Wall Street Journal  published an intriguing


No "Lazybones"--Happy 100th Birthday Johnny Mercer, RIP

According to The Business Insider, fourteen of the twenty-five laziest cities in America are in the south (ie,, in the Swampland footprint). with


Meet Alabama Poet Harry Moore

Dr. Harry Moore, professor emeritus of English, is the guest author for this week on Swampland. Harry has been a friend and colleague of mine for over three decades. He


Geezefest 2009: Yankee, Come Home!

On September 25, 2009, forty-four years after students from New Jersey, New York, and environs first appeared on the campus of Athens College (now Athens State University),


R.E.M. "Live at the Olympia"---Hear Prior to Release

According to NPR, Live at the Olympia is not  a live collection of


Meet John Lee of "When The Buddha Met Bubba"

Writing under the pseudonym of Richard "Dixie" Hartwell, John Lee, the best-selling author of The Flying read more...


Meet Kelly Kazek: Swampland Guest Writer

Journalist and author Kelly Kazek joins us on Swampland to write about an exciting events to take place this weekend in Athens, Alabama: the


Pat Conroy "South of Broad" Contest Winners Announced

Congratulations to all of those who participated in the Pat Conroy "Win a Copy of South of Broad Contest" sponsored read more...


Topic for Final Week of the Pat Conroy Contest: Place in Southern Writing

In William Faulkner's masterpiece Absalom, Absalom!, Canadian Shreve McCannon who is Quentin Compson's roommate at read more...


Poets Jeanie Thompson and Kathleen Driskell at Athens State University

Poets Jeanie Thompson and Kathleen Driskell will be reading from and talking about their latest collections of poetry at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009, at


Pat Conroy Contest Week 3: Relationships in Southern Writing

The Pat Conroy Contest  enters week three on September 23. There are some great posts on the


16th Trail of Tears Ride and Commemorative Sculpture in Tennessee

Tne Sixteenth Annual Trail of Tears Remembrance Motorcycle Ride will begin this weekend (Saturday, September 19) in Chattanooga, TN.  Held annually on the third Saturday in September, the


Pat Conroy Contest Topic #2: The Significance of Family in Southern Writing

"You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain't going to have any blood stick to you" says the barn-burning father Ab Snopes to his ten year old son Sarty shortly before Ab burns yet another barn and Sarty turns his back on his father and runs away into the dark read more...


In Memory of Four Little Girls: Birmingham Church Bombing 1963

On this the 46th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four little girls, I am reposting an piece I wrote over a year ago. Here are the opening lines of the


An Affirming Flame: Remembering 9/11

I wrote this essay three days after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City (September 11, read more...


Week One Essay Topic: Destiny and Fate in the Novels of Pat Conroy

Prince Hamlet declares in the final act of Shakespeare's play "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." The Irish novelist Frank Harris says "There is a destiny that shapes our ends...." The debate over fate versus free will has raged read more...


Win A Copy of Pat Conroy's "South of Broad" - READ RULES HERE!

In celebration of the release of Pat Conroy’s South Of Broad, his publisher, Nan A. read more...


Pat Conroy Sweepstakes : Win Copy of South of Broad

Beginning on Wednesday, September 9, 2009,  Swampland.com in conjunction with our Writers of the South Facebook Group and Nan A. read more...


Art Scene in Athens, Alabama: Local Southern Authors Rule

  The literary scene is booming in the small town of Athens, Alabama. In the past year at least four authors have published their work.


Possums Tales and Other Southern Fare

I was inspired to write about possums when I first saw this sign in front of  Hickory Barn read more...


Trailblazing Playwright Judi Ann Mason Dies at 54

Judi Ann Mason, who died of a ruptured abdominal aorta Wednesday July 8, 2009,  was widely known in the film and television industry. Born in 1955 in 


Art from Alabama to New Orleans and Along the Trail of Tears

This week's feature is about Going Green in New Orleans--how one city is turning trash into treasures. As we become more and more environmentally read more...


Pat Conroy, Cassandra King, and Rick Bragg In Birmingham

I could not wait to pass on this exciting information from Alabama Booksmith . Pat Conroy is coming to


My Life According to Billy C Farlow--Lost in the Ozone

There is a clever little game making its way around the internet. The game is called "My Life According To ....."  To play you simply substitute your choice of artist or band and then answer the questions with song titles recorded by the artist.  I found it read more...


That's What I Like About the South: Whitt's, White Sauce, Dale's Sauce, and Sundrop

In this series of blogs, I would like to talk about victuals (pronounced "vittles") that are uniquely southern. The first stanza of the song "That's What I Like about read more...


Guest Writer Diane Lehr and Renowned Ceramicist James Watkins

Swampland is honored to have Diane Lehr as our guest writer for this month. Lehr graciously consented to do a feature on renowned ceramicist James read more...


28th Handy Blues Fest in Florence, Alabama, July 17-26

W. C. Handy's autobiography Father of the read more...


Doctor from Alabama Obama's Choice for Surgeon General

Once again Alabama has made the national news. For the last two weeks the web has been buzzing about a speech that financial guru and CEO of Retirement Systems of read more...


Billy C Farlow, Delta Blues, and More News from Elk River

Well, we have survived yet another holiday weekend on Elk RIver. This weekend we did not burn down read more...


Guns for God?

"I don't see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist." - Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church in read more...


Advice to Mark Sanford: Never Put it in an Email and Never Lie to Your Staff

Unless you have been in the jungles of Borneo for the last four days, you know that


Not Everyone Can Be From Alabama

Continuing with my theme of levity for the rest of this month, I thought I would share with you this delightful guide to Alabama entitled "Understanding Alabamer" that has been making the rounds read more...


Medusa Meets Bride of Frankenstein: A Night at the Sleep Clinic

After my very serious piece about US Highway 72, I thought all of us could use a little levity. Hope you get a laugh out of my recent night at the read more...


Tennessee Rules: Places to Experience, Music That Rocks, Vistas That Amaze

This month I want to share with you the incredible diversity and exquisite beauty of my neighboring state, the "volunteer" state of Tennessee. From geography (Tennessee is often referred to as the read more...


Highway 72--Not the "Highway To Hell" but the "Highway From Hell"

My eyes are bleary and my hands are shaking as I write this blog. I had planned to post a cheery and humorous little piece about possums, but instead I am writing about senseless death. Tomorrow I will bury my second friend to be killed on Highway 72


Alabama Poet Jeanie Thompson to Read from New Collection in NYC

Alabama author Jeanie Thompson will be reading from her most recent collection of poetry The Seasons Bear Us on read more...


Helen Keller Lives On in the "The Miracle Worker"

On the first day of June,1968, author and activist Helen Keller, born in 1880 in Tuscumbia, read more...


Alabama Blues: Freedom Creek Festival and Cigar Box Guitar Extravaganza

Don't miss the chance to travel to the beautiful state of Alabama this weekend for some of the best and as well as some of the most original blues you will ever hear. Looks like Alabama will finally get a break read more...


More Southern Success Stories in Florence, Alabama

  When I was a child the only bookstore of any size in North Alabama was Anderson Books which first opened in


Alabama and The Civil Rights Movement: Forty-Eight Years Later

  On this day, May 20, 1961, a white mob attacked a busload of "Freedom Riders" in Montgomery, Alabama, read more...


Indie Filmmaker Tonya Holly Hits the Silver Screen

This week, May 11, When I Find the Ocean by independent filmmaker Tonya Holly will be shown in more than 90 theaters in 31 states including Alabama as an official


Smoke on the Water, Fire in the Sky: Mother's Day Weekend on ER

"No matter what we get out of this I know we'll never forget Smoke on the water, fire in the sky "


National Poetry Month and Kentuckian Wendell Berry

April is National Poetry Month, and I have been musing over one of my favorite poems that I keep posted on the door of my refrigerator. It is  "The Peace of Wild Things" read more...


Clothing Designer Billy Reid Moves Corporate Headquarters to Florence, Alabama

Who would ever dream that an internationally known clothing designer would base his corporate headquarters in Florence, Alabama. For the past four years, Louisiana native


Authors Michael Knight and Nanci Kincaid To Speak at Alabama Writers' Conferences

 On Thursday, April 16, Calhoun Community College will host its Eighth Annual Writers’ Conference. The featured author for the 2009 conference will be Alabama native


The World's Oldest Living Person and My Nonagenarian Friends

The current adage “Old age is not for sissies” has never been more true. Gertrude Baines, who became the world's oldest living person on read more...


Rocking from Cleveland, Illinois, to Southern France: Spooner Oldham, Wanda Jackson, and Billy C Farlow

  April is a huge month for southern musicians. On Saturday, April 4, my neighbor down the river Spooner Oldham and “the sweet lady with the nasty voice” Wanda


2009 Alabama Book Festival Includes Rick Bragg, Frank Stitt, and Nanci Kincaid

This year's Alabama Book Festival will feature a star-studded cast of authors, including author Rick read more...


Historian and Scholar Dr. John Hope Franklin Dies at 94

I first met Dr. John Hope Frankin in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1992 . He was the guest speaker at the


It's Not Just Southern; Everybody Does it: Misheard Song Lyrics, Malapropisms, and Mondegreens

Recently I decided to do a web search on Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," and  I ran across this book:


Willie King Lives On in New Blues Song by Blind Albert

  Vincent Gabriel (aka Blind Albert) has written a brand new blues song entitled "Ode To Willie King." Gabriel said that he was inspired to compose the song after reading the


Blues Legend Willie King Dies at 65

The music world mourns the passing of blues musician Willie King. Funeral services were held yesterday, March 15, in Aliceville, Alabama, for King read more...


Less Than Six Degrees of Separation: Deryle Perryman, Blind Albert, David Lyman, and Vietnam

For my great-grandparents, the war was the Civil War, for my parents’ generation it was WW II, but for my generation, the war was Vietnam. The Vietnam War shaped a


Horton Foote and William Faulkner: From Page to Screen

The award winning playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, who died last week at the


Academy Award Winning Playwright Horton Foote Dies at 92

Texas born playwright Horton Foote died peacefully in Hartford, Connecticut, yesterday (March 4th) just ten days short of his 93rd read more...


Guest Writer Sheila Byrd and the Search for George Washington Harris (1814-1869)

This week’s special guest for RiverVue's Southern Literature: Roots and Branches series is


Sweet Home Alabama Just Gets Sweeter: Literary Events in March

March is definitely coming in like a lion in Alabama this year. March 5-8 marks the occasion of the 12th Annual George Lindsey Film Festival in and around the area of


Film in the South: Sixth Annual Oxford Film Festival Begins February 5

This has been an exciting weekend, and so if you have recovered from Superbowl Sunday you might want to make plans to travel to


Sweet Home Alabama: New Tags for Old

  Sweet Home Alabama Lord, I'm coming home to you ----"Sweet Home Alabama" Lynyrd Skynyrd Band A brand new license plate featuring a pastel beach scene read more...


President-elect Barack Obama and The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was a blistering day in August of 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and read more...


Alabama In the New York Times and on NPR: Southern Sheriffs, Archaic Laws, and Colorful Criminals

From Sut Lovingood: Yarns Spun by a Nat'ral Born Durn'd Fool to Smokey and the Bandit, read more...


Taking a Lesson from The Fat Man for 2009: Fats Domino and the Courage to Go On

Sunday night I watched the public television premiere of the documentary Fats Domino— Wallkin' Back to New Orleans. I found in that film a message of hope and inspiration for all of us for the coming read more...


Alvin Ailey, Otis Redding--and Fifty Golden Years!

I recently returned from taking a very small bite out of a very big apple. I traveled to New York City this past weekend with my daughter and a longtime friend to experience Christmas in the city and to attend read more...


PTSD--Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder

Well, here we are. Thanksgiving has come and gone, the carcass has been picked (in more ways than one), the leftovers frozen, the hangovers have been medicated with the hair of the dog, and families continue to perpetuate the myth that


Art and the South: Spotlight on Athens, Alabama, and Native Son Paxton

The little north Alabama town of Athens may not be the Sante read more...


Not a Red South or a Blue South, but a New South

"...For the times they are a-changin." Bob Dylan On Monday, November 10, the New York Times ran an article entitled


Going to the Dogs

After all the seriousness of the last few weeks, I decided a little levity was in order. I hope reading this blog does you as much good as writing it did for me. In August of this year, our fourteen year old Labrador, who had been suffering with respiratory problems for read more...


A More Perfect Union

Where shall I start? I am overcome with emotion because today is a day I never thought I would live to see. When I was growing up in Alabama, waiting rooms, restrooms, and water fountains were still labeled White Only. You remember. You saw the movie


KO'ing Kudzu in Carolina

After my October 17th feature on Alabama filmmaker Max Shores, I decided read more...


Filmmakers in the South: Spotlight on Alabama

This week I would like to celebrate southern filmmakers, particularly those who hail from Alabama or who have made films about Alabama. One of these outstanding


Auburn Rules!

If not on the gridiron, at least in the classroom. According to an article in the New York Times (September 21 ) entitled The read more...


The Trail of Tears 2008

Today, Saturday, September 20th, some 150,000 motorcycles will make their way toward Florence, Alabama.  This is the 15th Annual Trail of Tears read more...


The Only Serious Philosophical Question

The recent death (September 12) of novelist David Foster Wallace (I


A Place To Come To

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The End of Placeness,” columnist


Friends Flee Gustav

Here on Elk River we are opening our homes and hearts to friends who are fleeing the fury of Hurricane Gustav. My neighbor and former read more...


Back from the Blue Ridge

Just a quick note to say that I have been "on the road" for the past five days, and I have lots of exciting adventures and observations to share in the coming weeks. Although I have traveled extensively in the continental US and in Central America and abroad, this was my read more...


Alabama Rules: From Blue-Eyed Soul to Soulful Blues

My friend Deryle Perryman, native of Florence and resident of Albuquerque, recently returned from the Porretta Soul Festival in


The Dog Star Rages and Leos Roar

It is August and the dog days of summer are upon us. The ancient Romans noticed that the hottest days of the year, late July and early August, coincided with the appearance of


Where Have All the Small Towns Gone?

The centuries old ubi sunt query—where are those who went before us? or where are the snow of yesterday?—has always been a question with no answer. But this particular question is not read more...


Alabama in July

The Fourth of July is over and along with it Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic near San Antonio featuring Merle read more...


Alabama: A Place in the Sun

It is July in Alabama and the corn is literally as high as an elephant’s eye. Jungles of lush green flank the country roads. Where formerly one could see for miles, one can barely see the road directly ahead.


Southern Literature Series to Premiere on Swampland

“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past” ( Requiem for a Nun) In William read more...


Father's Day and Rick Bragg

If you are looking for a gift for Father’s Day, look no further than Rick Bragg’s latest gem,


Tying The Knot: East Meets West in the Deep South

This weekend I attended the wedding of two young friends at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The wedding (or more accurately the weddings) involved both a traditional


More Six Degrees: From Florence, Alabama, to Florence, Italy

On March 4, 2006, my old friend Deryle Perryman and filmmaker Moises Gonzales showed their documentary film Dangerous read more...


Farewell to Art Icon Robert Rauschenberg

Texas born painter, photographer, printmaker, sculptor, choreographer, onstage performer, set designer and, in later years, even a composer, Robert Rauschenberg read more...


Too Much Fun

When Deryle Perryman contacted me last week to say that he and fellow filmmaker Moises Gonzales were coming to Alabama and would I like to read more...


April in Alabama

Nothing could be more beautiful than April in Alabama and, in my case, nothing could be more exciting. I recently returned from the Alabama Studio Weekend in the


Alabama: Places to Be and People to See

The Alabama Book Festival held in Montgomery, Alabama, is only in its third season and already it offers a unique opportunity for participants to meet and listen to over seventy authors, among them read more...


Alabama Beat: Words and Music in the Deep South

The three poems currently appearing in the Poetry section of Swampland are by Mississippi born Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey (published by permission of the author). Trethewey won read more...


Alabama's Going Green: "Let's Get Dirty"

Huntsville, Alabama, has chosen “Let’s Get Dirty” by the Huntsville country music band


Alabama's Going Green: A Delicate Balance

Yes, I read the article in the New York Times this past Monday about the biodiesel spill near


Alabama's Going Green

Holden Caulfield wanted to know where all the ducks go in winter. Ann (Andie MacDowell) in Sex, Lies, and Videotape was read more...


Black History Month: Look Back, but Move Forward

“Look back but move forward” was the credo of civil rights activist Johnnie Carr who died Friday at the age of 97.


Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop To Drink

Today the New York Times ran an article entitled “Georgia Claims a Sliver of the Tennessee River.” The quarrel is not just about boundaries. It is about water, read more...


Let The Sunshine In

I was listening to NPR on Saturday morning when I heard the bluesy sound of an acoustic guitar and a voice that reminded me of a cross between Tom Waits and Elvis Costello (more in mood than in actual vocal comparison.). The voice was that of


It's Not Easy Being Indie

I always thought that in my next incarnation I wanted to come back as an independent documentary filmmaker. I held on to that dream until I sat in an darkened room in a warehouse in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday afternoon and listened to independent filmmaker


The Day The Music Died

The day was February 3, 1959. At approximately 12:55 AM, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, the “Big Bopper,” and their twenty-one year old pilot boarded a small plane near Clear Lake,


Lest We Forget: Four Spirits

January 30, 2008, marked the 60th anniversary of the assassination of India’s political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi. It was Gandhi whose name was most invoked


The Best of All Possible Worlds or Is There Balm in Gilead?

I live in the boonies, the hinterlands of Northern Alabama. For years, I made do with erratic reception from local television stations, and then one day satellite TV and DSL changed my life.  This week, thanks to a relatively new channel called


Six Degrees of Separation

In the south we not only claim kin we also claim friends. I have learned that behind every new acquaintance there lies the possibility of finding an old friend—not to mention discovering a new one. Such was the case this week when I was working on a feature about read more...


White Pelicans on Elk River

White Pelicans are a rarity on Elk River. I have never seen one north of Gulf Shores, but on Christmas morning a friend down the river called to say that a dozen White Pelicans were winging our way in the midst of a flock of cormorants. I had despaired of ever sighting pelicans read more...


Music and Movie Making in Alabama

Sorry to have been incommunicado since Thanksgiving. This time I was overwhelmed by the holiday madness and computer problems (my three year old monitor died). But now all is well, and I am looking forward to an exciting 2008 on Swampland. Today I am posting a read more...


Confessions Redux

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Auburn’s 1957 National Championship. Not only did the Tigers go undefeated that season, but they also held Alabama scoreless in the Iron Bowl while running up an astounding forty points. Saturday, November 24, is the golden read more...


Tiger Rag

In the spring a young man’s fancy may turn to baseball, but in the fall in the South everyone’s fancy turns to football, and in Alabama there is only Auburn and


Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Wednesday night’s opening game of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park was a heartbreaker for Colorado Rockies fans. I have always read more...


It is Raining on the River!

I guess I rattled my rain stick enough this weekend to wake up the clouds. We In North Alabama are reveling in what the Navajos call a gentle “female” rain, and I pray it continues all week. I especially hope it rains profusely on Atlanta, Georgia, where they are having read more...


On the Road Again

Sorry I have been incommunicado lately. I am still struggling with allergies that seem to get worse rather than better. Ah, fall in North Alabama. Speaking of fall, this weekend my sister, her husband, and two of our friends made a road trip to the hills of middle Tennessee read more...


Arrivederci Roma, Ciao Athens (Alabama)

I have just returned from ten days in Italy (Venice, Florence/Tuscany, and Rome) and am way behind on my blog, so please bear with me. I am somewhat jet-lagged, and I am preparing to leave for Jackson, MS, on Wednesday to participate in the


More Alabama Authors: Eric Smith

Eric Smith is assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama-Huntsville where his speciality is Post Colonial Literature. Over ten years ago, Eric was a student in my classes at Athens State University. After completing his B.S. at ASU, Eric attended read more...


"When I die, the brush dies": Remembering Jimmie Lee Sudduth

  Jimmie Lee Sudduth, celebrated Alabama folk artist, died Sunday, September 9, in Fayette, Alabama, at read more...


Spotlighting Alabama Authors

During  the next few weeks I will be featuring the poetry of several Alabama writers whose poems were published in the recent anthology: Whatever Remembers Us.  These poems read more...


Hot and Wet or Hot and Dry?

The state of Alabama made the national news on two consecutive days this week: first regarding the referendum that could have reversed the legal sale of alcohol in the city of Athens (billed as "Alabama City Mulls Return to Prohibition") and secondly for the read more...


Turtle Tracks

In the fall of 2005, my sister Peggy bought a 1985 Toyota Dolphin RV from her son in Seaside, CA, and in late October Peggy, our friend Carol C, and I flew out to California to drive the vintage RV the three thousand miles from the west coast to north Alabama.


West "by God" Virginia and The Free State of Winston

Is West Virginia really a part of the south? Jason Headley in an article entitled "A State of Confusion" pleads the case for his home state in the recent issue of Oxford read more...


Look Homeward, Angel: In Memoriam Doug Marlette

On Tuesday, July 10, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette was killed in a car wreck on a rain soaked road in north Mississippi. Marlette and the driver of the truck, the theatre director at Oxford read more...


07-07-07

Isn't seven the most powerfully magical number? -- Tom Marvolo Riddle to Horace Slughorn     Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Whether you are superstitious, mystical, fascinated by numerology, or simply curious, you have to be just read more...


A Quiet Fourth of July

It is a strangely quiet Fourth of July on the river. Due to the devastating drought, the water level is unusually low, discouraging most boaters and skiers at read more...


Dysfunction Junction

There is a interchange in Birmingham, Alabama, that is so infamous it has been dubbed Malfunction Junction. After the last deadly crash, the powers-that-be declared that the interchange should be completely revamped, resulting in a slightly more functional junction. This is read more...


Ninety is the New Forty-five

I hope each of you read the newspaper article by James Lewis of Newhouse News Service published on May 26th. Lewis wrote about four ninety-plus year old women from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who went out for an evening on the town. The women left the Country Meadows Retirement read more...


Uneasy Rider

Last weekend I traveled to Austin, Texas, for the 90th birthday celebration of Dr. Elva Mclin, my mentor, friend, and longtime colleague. Another former colleague and friend of the honoree accompanied me. Because neither of us had ever been to Austin before, we elected to stay in read more...


Celebrations On The River: Derby Day

Today marks the 28th annual Cotton Row Run , a 10K race through the city of Huntsville, AL, and up Heartbreak Hill. In the early 90s I was still running the race. There were days hotter than this one but not nearly read more...


A Long, Hot Summer?

I don’t think it has rained in the Tennessee Valley since the day Clifton Taulbert spoke at Calhoun College and that day was merely a tiny oasis in what has become a desert of drought. I have never read more...


View Archives from different years

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
Copyright 1998-2009 by Swampland Inc. All rights reserved.