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Snapshot of Savannah: Conrad Aiken

We’re excited to introduce a new monthly photo essay by interns and Savannah College of Art and Design students Hannah Clark and Lily Avery. This first one focuses on Savannah’s lesser-known writer Conrad Aiken and the local imagery that inspired his poems. 

Conrad Aiken: How the South Speaks

The South has always been a force of inspiration for writers and artists. Whether they were born Southerners or vagabonds, traveling to the warmer states to find refuge from the cold, these people found the South to be a haven. One such writer, Conrad Aiken, found the South to be more than just a sanctuary for inspiration but the sole driving point of his work. He was born in Savannah, Georgia, on August 5, 1889. He went on to graduate from Harvard and befriend other famous literary figures such as e.e. cummings and T.S. Eliot. Aiken’s work, like so many other writers influenced by the South, focuses heavily on nature. His poems sing with imagery of Southern trees, specifically the treescape of Savannah.

The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves,
In the drowse of the sunlight, among low voices,
I suddenly face you
– excerpt from “Chance Meetings”

The sturdiness of the trees and the sweeping moss of the Savannah landscape lend wonderfully to Aiken’s firm and brick-ish poetry. At a young age, Aiken turned to these images that were so rooted in his childhood to relate and deal with the trauma of losing two parents to suicide at the same time. This fixation on Savannah and Southern inspiration, even after moving away from the South to Massachusetts, eventually led him to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1930 for his work Selected Poems. Though he never gained fame until after death, Aiken never lost hope. His poetry was and will always be important. And through this, along with many others, the South will remain alive and significant in the world of American literature.

Writing by Lily Avery; photo by Hannah Clark. 

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