The Art of Being Southern

By Jessica Wimmer

Ferrum College, Spring 2009

Jessica Wimmer wrote this poem in Dr. John Kitterman's Creative Writing class at Ferrum College in Spring 2009 and read it at a college coffeehouse on April 16. She is a native of Ferrum in southwestern Virginia.

For another great response to stereotpyes of Appalachian women, see Lisa Norvell's 2003 poem in this web site: "I am a Modern Day Appalachian Woman." The AppLit page Thematic Table of Contents for Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia lists selections by 105 women writers.

The Art of Being Southern

I still have people saying it to me
People I’ve known for years still say it

“You’re not from here”
No, really I am
“But where’s your accent and your trademark ignorance?”
“Where’s your this and your that that lets me know you’re one of those people?”

Well pardon me for not coming across as “simple”
I suppose I’ll pardon you while I’m at it
I guess when you look at me you don’t see the summers I spent
Picking blackberries for my grandma to place in a pie she’d made a thousand times
Or the days I spent making forts and climbing trees in the woods behind my house
You probably overlooked the scars I have from playing in creeks barefoot
And the homemade southern charm I exude when I need to
Of which I learned from listening to generations that came before me
As they made family dinners in the next room

I don’t have to lack sophistication to know what it’s like to drive by Baptist churches
With their doors flung open to let in the breeze because they don’t have air conditioners
I don’t have to be some coal miner’s daughter to have memories
Laced with the innocence and warmth only growing up in the south can provide
I’ve soaked up every bit of grit these mountains around me have to offer
And just because I don’t have HILLBILLY written in big letters on my forehead
Doesn’t mean I wasn’t built here
Or that I’m ashamed to say I was
So I’ll let your false assumption slide
Because that’s what we southern ladies do

copyright 2009 Jessica Wimmer, Ferrum College
all rights reserved

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