Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whistling Dixie

whistling Dixie
in a land of cotton—
songs we learned
in grammar school
when all we knew was white

—A Hundred Gourds, March 2013

I set out to write a post here about the evolution of the above tanka. But after a sentence or two, it appeared my words might be giving birth to a tanka prose piece instead. So, I'll keep working on that and see where it takes me. 

Can any of your relate to my poem, I wonder? Naive, strange times; though, really, all times may be strange, especially when looking back on them. I still have vague recollections of being on a stage, preparing for some sort of elementary school pageant during which we surely sang the "Dixie" song (also named "I Wish I Was in Dixie," etc.), no doubt with gusto and lack of understanding. The song has a complex history, certain details disputable, including authorship and intention; there have been many variations of its lyrics. Through my reading, I've learned of Dixie's immense popularity in both the South and the North; it was a favorite of President Lincoln's. A catchy tune, but I think I can leave it in the past. The possible origins of the nickname "Dixie" (with respect to region) also are worth reading about.


  1. Though I grew up, and still live, in Canada, I know the song well. I took your suggestion, Janet, and did look a bit further into its origins, and the position of both its critics and supporters. There are a lot of elements to aspects of the song, a lot of history, and, hence, a lot to process. A very thought provoking tanka that eloquently captures the naivety with which young children gobble up (unquestioningly) what they are taught. A very fine write - and extremely apropos as teachers and students (of all ages) head back into the classroom.

  2. A richly multi-layered tanka, capturing a lot of complexity in a few spare lines. I look forward to reading your tanka prose piece!

  3. Wendy, thanks for the info in your post - and glad this one works for you.

    Jenny, thank you. I've finished my tanka prose now, except I'm not sure what I think of it (or what journal editors will think of it). Will pull it out again in a few weeks and see how I feel then. ;)

  4. The first thing I thought of when I read this was "You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie" by the Bellamy Brothers. So true on what gets taught via a "catchy" vehicle. Outstanding tanka Janet.

    1. Enjoyed your comment, Jennifer - thanks.
      I'm going to have to refamiliarize myself with the Bellamy Bros song you mention!