April 12, 2016

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NPM 50 State Tour: Tennessee

It's the Sweet Sixteen post of our National Poetry Mont 50 State Tour. Pucker up, I'm spinning the bottle and the lucky state is...

Tennessee. The guitar on your state quarter is so cool! How long have you been a musician?

Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796. I love it's nickname, The Volunteer State. My 50 State Fandex tells me it is the country's largest producer of Bibles.

It has an interesting Civil War history (on my mind because of Virginia's kerfluffle over Confederate History Month). Because portions of the state were pro-Union and anti-slavery, Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy and the first to rejoin the Union.

According to Fandex, it's also "the only Southern state ever to free the slaves by popular vote."

Tennesee's poet laureate, Margaret Britton Vaughn, has held the position since 1995. It is a lifetime post.

Britton Vaughn wrote "Who We Are" for Tennessee's Bicentennial. It's a rich list poem. I love details like "Wilma Rudolph's run for the gold."

"Who We Are"
The Bicentennial of Tennessee
by Margaret Britton Vaughn

The fertile soil of Tennessee
Grew more than corn, tobacco, and cotton,
It grew a crop of people who are
Trailblazers, child raisers, flag wavers, soul savers.
Like the roots of the tulip poplar,
Our feet are planted deeply
Into good living, neighbor giving, God fearing.
Like the iris, buttercup and wild daisies,
Our towns have sprung up
In valleys, basins, mountains, plains and plateaus
That house cabins, mansions and hillside chateaus.
We're the one-room schoolhouse in the hollow;
We're the university grad and the front-porch scholar.
We're Davy Crockett at the Alamo,
Sergeant York, World War I hero.
We're Cordell Hull who served Roosevelt;
We're Chief Sequoyah and his Cherokee alphabet.
We're W.C. Handy and the Memphis Blues;
We're Ida B. Wells and Civil Rights news,
And Grand Ole Opry with old wooden pews.
We're "Rocky Top" and "Tennessee Waltz" the same;
We're "Star Spangled Banner" before the game.
We're mockingbirds singing Appalachian folk songs;
We're country church sing-alongs.
We're hand clappers, toe tappers, knee slappers
And Mama's lap lullaby nappers.
We're Jackson, Johnson and James K. Polk;
We're city slickers and poor hill folk;
We're Anne Dallas Dudley and the Suffrage Vote.
We're John Sevier, Don Sundquist and governors galore;
We're congressmen, mayors and Vice President Gore.
We're Wilma Rudolph's run for the gold
And Sunday golfers' eighteenth hole.
We're Christmas Eve and the Fourth of July;
We're 4-H and homemade chess pie.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Ohio would be our next stop, but it's a Wall of Shame state -- no poet laureate. If poet Rita Dove invites us over, maybe we'll make a pit stop.

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