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This report is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Whitman, Alabama Michelle Holmes

As I have walk’d in Alabama my morning walk,
I have seen where the she-bird the mocking-bird sat on her
    nest in the briers hatching her brood.

I have seen the he-bird also,
I have paus’d to hear him near at hand inflating his throat
   and joyfully singing.

And while I paus’d it came to me that what he really sang for
    was not there only,
Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the
But subtle, clandestine, away beyond,
A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being born.

                            Walt Whitman, ‘Starting Out from Paumanock’

The first time I met Jennifer Crandall, we were in a coffee shop in downtown San Francisco, surrounded by moustachioed baristas and twenty-year-old start-up founders; neither of us had given more than a passing thought in our lives to the deep red, deep south state of Alabama.

And yet, less than six months later, we’d both be living there – me running a media company, Jennifer falling in love with the voices and the people and the songs tumbling from the briars and the sidewalks and the farmhouses and the underpasses in the place still called the Heart of Dixie.

A year after that, ‘Whitman, Alabama’ would be in full swing, and I would stand beside her in a paupers’ graveyard, or on a coal boat, watching as she coaxed forth a twenty-first century Song of ...

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