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by Jason Sanford, Editor

Ever seen a kudzu flower? While most people know of kudzu—the fast-growing vine that blankets abandoned homes, telephone poles and ravines across the American south—few know that the plant also flowers.

In fact, the plant's flowers are the reason kudzu initially spread across the south. According to legend, wanna-be antebellum ladies in the late 19th century saw the plant at Japanese expositions and began planting it around their porches. They loved how kudzu quickly grew up the columns of their houses, provided tons of shade, and sprouted the most fragrant of little flowers.

Of course, times changes. No modern day Scarlet O'Hara would dare taint herself by getting near this coarse, trashy weed. But such are the stereotypes of the south.

Like kudzu, the 21st century south is a mix of traditional and new, regional and international. Just as kudzu was imported to the south, some of the new south's most important voices weren't even present there a generation ago. And like the south, kudzu thrives with a diversity and ability that surpasses most plants native to the United States.

All of which brings me to storySouth, an independent literary journal featuring the best writings from the new south. Our magazine attempts to capture all the aspects of the modern-day south, from the curse of racism to the budding promise of racial cooperation, from Civil War reenactors to those who see no purpose in battles that are a hundred and fifty years old. storySouth's poetry editor, Jake Adam York, recently mentioned a conversation he had with the poet Robert Morgan, in which Morgan explained how he first engaged poetry as a discipline when he realized that a southern poetry had not yet been realized.

Since that conversation, Jake has realized that there will probably never be a southern poetry, because in its place already exists southern poetries. The work of poets like Yusef Komunyakaa, Natasha Trethewey, Maurice Manning, and Reetika Vazirani present the cultural diversity of the south as, in Jake's words, “It struggles with, against, and toward plurality, and in doing so, engages the region in conversations about its selves.”

What Jake says about the poetries of the new south also applies to its fiction. Just as Jake selects poetry for storySouth which participates in these conversations about its different selves, I believe that southern fiction must have both a strong, personal voice while also existing within and telling about the larger world.

storySouth's mission is to showcase the best fiction and poetry that writers from the new south have to offer. However, within our overall mission are many smaller goals. We strive to find and promote the works of promising new writers. We aim to prove that the internet is not just a medium of flash and style; that excellent writing can attract attention without programming gimmicks and hard-to-read fonts. And we desire to show that there is more to southern literature than the poetry of Sidney Lanier and the fiction of William Faulkner.

We must be doing something right because since its launch storySouth has published fiction and poetry by Kelly Cherry, Forrest Gander, R.T. Smith, Alan Davis, and Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, in addition to works by many new writers. Writings from storySouth have been featured on MobyLives and have attracted one of our new authors the attention of the William Morris agency. The site is visited by thousands each month and linked to by places such as Web del Sol.

The truth is that kudzu isn't a weed. Scientists are now discovering that kudzu is, among other things, an excellent herbal treatment for alcoholism and a dang good cattle feed. Likewise, southern literature has more to offer than the names Faulkner, O'Connor, and Welty.

Kudzu flowers. If you want to see them for yourself and can't go south, check out storySouth's mission page. If you want to read the best poetry and fiction from the new and ever changing south, simply read storySouth.


Jason Sanford Jason Sanford was born and raised in Alabama. He is a former senior editor with Meadowbrook Press, a commercial publishing company distributed by Simon & Schuster, and until recently was the director of programs at SASE: The Write Place, a non-profit literary organization in Minnesota. His stories have been published in several literary magazines and book anthologies, including the Mississippi Review, the Beloit Fiction Journal, and READ. He is also a winner of a Loft Mentor Series Award for fiction. He says of the photo “the photo I sent is a shot of me and my son Jai eating a deep fried candy bar on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair (and yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds). . . to be honest, I've never been a big fan of posed author pics where the author tries to look all serious and intelligent.” Jason's writing can be read online at www.jasonsanford.freeservers.com