The world has officially fallen off its axis. I’m convinced of it. That, or we’ve slipped through one of those black holes and everyone is having a hard time regaining equilibrium.
I didn’t discover this latest disaster until early the wee hours this morning. Sleepless and bored, I tuned the TV to a program taped by the Mississippi wildlife organization. I have zero interest in hunting and fishing but what caught my attention was the intriguing lead-in.
It was a poem written by Paul Ott several years ago. I thought it was beautiful, poignant and a perfect depiction of the most maligned state in the union. It brought tears to my eyes and fond memories to my mind.
In his distinctly southern accent Ott related the following:
I Am Mississippi
I’m the land of the Choctaw
The hills of Vicksburg, and a cross-cut saw
Dinner on the ground and a muscadine vine
I’m a longleaf pine, and Mississippi’s on my mind
I’m a banjo pickin’ and all night sings
Azaleas a ‘bloomin’ in Ocean Springs
I’m a Gospel Singer and the old folks at home
And I’m the eagle on the top of the capitol’s dome
I’m coffee in the morning and an ole smoked ham
Cathead biscuits and blackberry jam
I’m a Mississippi moon, a dusty Delta Dawn,
B. B. King, Magnolias in bloom
I’m an antebellum home on the Natchez Trace,
A rusty plow on the old home place
I’m Walter Payton catchin’ a pass, Elvis Presley,
Coon hounds and bird dogs and tea of Sassafras
I’m Miss Mississippi and all her glory
I’m William Faulkner as he writes a story
I’m Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman
John C. Stennis, a southern statesman
I’m the Mississippi River as it rounds the bend
I’m Gone with the Wind, y’all come back again
Well, I’m everything good you have ever dreamed about
Hush yo’ mouth, I’m Mississippi
I am the South
Pretty sweet, huh. It was unanimously passed by the Mississippi Legislature as the official state poem around 2006.
But wait. Not so fast. The intellectuals from that school up north felt the little ditty wasn’t worthy of a state that produced many literary giants. But even worse they misinterpreted the line about cathead biscuits. They thought the crazy Mississippians were making biscuits from poor homeless kitty cats. (Educated idiots are the worst kind).
The poem passed into the black hole of all that is good and precious to my generation. But I’m getting it printed up and framed to sell at junk sales where you can still find good stuff like well loved black iron skillet, antiquated farm implements and rusty tricycles. Betcha I’ll make a fortune IF I can get Paul’s permission.
Poem by Paul Ott copyright 1990. Published by Dixie Springs Music.
Nostalgia!! Love this and the poem “They” don’t get it anyway..
I’ve missed your writings and I was worried about you. I had retired in 2014 and had moved from Starkville back to my hometown of Monroe, GA. Your post would help me remember and enjoy my days in MS. Hope you don’t mind if I print off this latest post and display it among my MS keepsakes.
Hi Molly – missing you down here. Glad ithr poem gave you good memories. I’ve been dealing with some “stuff” which included a kaput computer with stuck keys. Have a new one now and intend to get back to the blogosphere! E
So glad you’re back! You probably have no idea how much you brighten the days of so many people – particularly this person.
So glad to hear from you, we all miss our much needed diva devotions. I’ve been thinking about all those spoiled yankee brats whining because they didn’t get the president they wanted. Now they want to provide counseling, therapy dogs, coloring books and play do. You can bet your bottom dollar none of them were raised south of the Mason Dixon line. There’s not a single self-respecting Southern Mother who would put up with any of that. I’m pretty sure no southern raised child would be crazy enough to pull that stunt either.
Loved this! Thank you for sharing!
Always love this poem…and hearing that sweet deep Southern voice reciting it! I have been missing you too! I feel that Mississippi is such a wonderful warm place if some people don’t see that…they will never understand!
So glad u dug this one up let’s have it printed on tea towels
Beverly, wonderful idea. Wonder if we can get his permission …I’ll look into that.
Thanks for sharing this poem. I love it.
This is a beautiful poem and after seeing the latest reaction from so called college students after the election it makes me proud that I was raised in Mississippi by hard working parents that taught us to work and appreciate what we have because we earned it and appreciate our neighbors and our way of life. I cook in my black iron skillets that have been handed down from my grandmother and my mother. Thanks for the reminder that we truly live in a place where we enjoy the blessing of friends and neighbors that are wonderful caring people!
This is beautiful!! I am from Louisiana and live in Seattle, WA. I can tell you, I want to slap the next person that thinks they are so damn smart because they never set foot in such a low brow place as Louisiana into the middle of next week. The first 1000 times, I attempted to chuckle with them. Now, I am over it. No one wants to retire up North? No one wants to meet a Northern man? Who ever heard of Northern Hospitality??
How can people be so rude right to your face??? I am going to have some cathead biscuits, blackberry jam, and cafe au lait and plan my move….
This poem is terrible. It’s a travesty as verse or as song and does not need to be enshrined as an official anything by the State.
First of all, it’s just reworked lyrics from one of Ott’s song-poems called “I’m the South”. Ott has done several of these recitations to music where he makes a series of statements saying, “I am This and That” over treacly music, such as “The Right Arm of America” where he speaks as a gun or “I Am That I Am” where he speaks as Christ. Rather than write an original poem, he took a song that he wrote in the 1970s about a diverse region of the nation and shoehorned it onto a single state. He even left things in that don’t apply to Mississippi, like Gone With the Wind, which takes place in Georgia.
Here are some examples of how he rewrote the song:
Original line: I’m a tall Georgia Pine, And Georgia’s on my mind
Poem line: I’m a longleaf pine, and Mississippi’s on my mind
Original line: I’m a Carolina moon, a dusty delta dawn, Magnolias in Bloom
Poem line: I’m a Mississippi moon, a dusty Delta Dawn, B. B. King, Magnolias in bloom
Original line: I’m a thoroughbred grazing on Kentucky bluegrass, I’m coon hounds, bird dogs and tea of sassafras
Poem line: I’m Walter Payton catchin’ a pass, Elvis Presley, Coon hounds and bird dogs and tea of Sassafras
Then there are the errors (or at least mischaracterizations). Walter Payton was a running back, not a receiver – catching passes is not what he is known for at all. Faulkner did write short fiction as well as novels, but the line, “I’m William Faulkner as he writes a story,” sounds dismissive of his legacy, as if he was just penning little folksy tales for the grandkids. (And shouldn’t it be “I’m William Faulkner as I write a story”?)
We can keep going. For example, there are Antebellum homes in Natchez, but not on the Trace. “Georgia’s on my mind” and “Carolina moon” (both in the original) hearken to famous and popular songs about those places. Just stuffing Mississippi in the place of the other states is lazy at best. It would be like writing about the Yellow Rose of Mississippi or about dancing with my darling to the Mississippi Waltz.
But the real travesty is there’s no real weight. It’s nothing but a collection of stereotypes and cutesy sayings with a bad meter. I am a lifelong Mississippian and while I can relate to much of these anecdotes, that’s about the depth of it. It reads like a “homey” handpainted sign one might buy at Mistletoe Marketplace or Olde Tyme Commissary (“Where the tea is sweet and the accents are sweeter!”). It says almost nothing about the people and the character of the state.
Mississippians love to brag about our literary heritage. If so, then can’t we do better than this? I’d like to think so.
This precious poem does speak of where I was born and raised! Sure it’s not Mississippi, but it is the beginning of the South! It is Southern Missouri close to the Boot heel of Missouri! I was born and raised in the same Southern ways and speak the same Southern accent!