From our desk to yours

forty-second street blog

Exploring East Tennessee’s Creative Cultural Influence, Part One: The Writers

By Forty-second street content writer
Buck Bald mountain in Monroe County, Tennessee

Here at Forty-Second Street, we like to say that we are deeply rooted in the uniquely creative culture of East Tennessee. We have clients all over the United States, but much of our creative imagination and inspiration comes from where we’re located, and we’re proud of that. Here are just a few of the inspiring examples of this innovative region that influence our approach to artistry and content creation. East Tennessee has been home to a number of influential and award-winning writers, both born and raised in the region and those who came to call the Volunteer State home in later years. Their impact on how we approach creation can’t be ignored, and we’re happy to pay homage to them. If you are a proud Appalachian or feel a kindred connection with these mountains, we hope you check out these authors and discover their impact too!

1. James Agee

“May God bless my people,

my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father,

oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble;

and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little

I am taken in

and put to bed.

Sleep, soft smiling,

draws me unto her;

and those receive me,

who quietly treat me,

as one familiar and well-beloved in that home:

but will not, oh, will not,

not now, not ever;

but will not ever tell me who I am,”

This excerpt is from Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Agee’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Agee, whose autobiographical novel A Death in the Family (1957) about his East Tennessee childhood was published posthumously, isn’t the only legendary literary figure to arise from the unique creative culture of East Tennessee. 

2. Nikki Giovanni

Poet Nikki Giovanni, born in Knoxville, was inspired by spending the summers with her grandparents in East Tennessee. Giovanni is one of the world’s most well-known Black poets, and her work explores a wide range of topics, from race and social issues to writing for children. Influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, she came to fame in the late 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement. Her poems have been frequently re-published in anthologies and other collections. Click here to read one of our favorites titled Knoxville, Tennessee.

3. Wilma Dykeman

Wilma Dykeman, a legendary figure in Appalachian literature and author of classics like The Tall Woman (1962), split time between her native North Carolina and Newport, Tennessee, located in Cocke County. In 1981, then-Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander named her the official state historian, an honorary role that she filled until 2002, and in 1985 she received the North Carolina Award for literature. Other awards she received include the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Trophy, a Guggenheim Fellowship (in 1956), a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship, and the Tennessee Conservation Writer of the Year Award.

4. Cormac McCarthy

We can’t neglect to mention Cormac McCarthy, too, most recently in the news for a fake Twitter account—that the site actually verified! Yep, Twitter gave a blue check to a parody account pretending to be the 88-year-old award-winning author of The Road and Blood Meridian, and McCarthy wasn’t actually shading his publicist on the Internet. 

McCarthy enrolled in the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1951. Even though he dropped out to join the military, he received literary grants to write novels like Outer Dark (1968) and Suttree (1979), winning multiple awards and accolades including a MacArthur Fellowship. If you’re a McCarthy fan, make sure to check out the Oarsman installation at the northwest corner of Gay and Church Streets in Knoxville to see the David Phelps sculpture inspired by Suttree.

If you’re looking for writers, artists, and designers who are grounded in the traditions of this unique and creative region, look no further than Forty-Second Street, Inc. speak to a member of our experienced and qualified team today. Click here to schedule a 30-minute meeting with our Content Writer, Emma G. Thompson, and learn how to make your words work for you!

Recent Entries