Longleaf by John Saad


Winner of the 2016 Hopper Prize for Young Poets, John Saad's book of poetry, Longleaf, is now available from Green Writers Press.

“A poetics worthy of the pine flatwoods—dappled, multilingual,. clairyoyant. John Saad can see things the rest of us can’t see. Let him be our seer then. In skillful distillation—tense, sparse, beautiful—he conjures a whole landscape, a whole culture, a whole life. Reading this poetry is like drinking good cognac.”
—Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood


The Hopper Prize for Young Poets

AUGUST 2016

The Hopper Prize for Young Poets has been awarded to John Saad, author of the manuscript Longleaf.

James Crews, assistant editor at Green Writers Press and one of the readers for the contest, writes: "Longleaf is a chapbook of poems deeply rooted in place and the landscape of John Saad's native coastal Alabama. This wide-ranging and wise collection shows the poet's bone-deep connection to home that stems from childhood through early adulthood. With finely wrought images and specialized yet lyrical language that recall the best of Rodney Jones and Philip Levine, Saad brings us into his world of the Deep South, where 'the fumbled light of live oaks' mingles with 'the ferrous / howls / of valley dogs.' In these pages, memories of family are woven with observations of a natural world in constant conversation with civilization and the machines that encroach upon it. Still, Saad's poems prove that his environment can and will endure, no matter how marked with freeways and 'smokestacks belching black.' Windows still give us views of an 'anvil sky' dissolving 'over the purple pulse / of switchgrass,' and we canlike the guitar he once abandoned on a riverbanklose ourselves in 'the cutbank's slow refrains,' at last redeemed by 'the water's dark applause.'"

John lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife and their two dogs. His poetry has appeared recently in Kudzu House and ISLE. He is the state winner of the 2014 Hackney Literary Award for Poetry. This fall, he will move to Virginia to begin his MFA at Hollins University. Enjoy his poem "Safeguard," from Longleaf, below.


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Safeguard

by JOHN SAAD

A bobcat shades
   slash pine
            along the firebreak—

the clap of my lever
turns her head.
            The shot
            opens
her breath  

            as yearlings
spring from brush
only to disappear   
   again

in the gray quick    
   of last year’s
            cutting.