by Dale Wisely
Last night, I read a bitter thread on Facebook (the other major Internet phenomenon which debuted in 2004, besides Right Hand Pointing) which erupted because Alabama was excluded from a CNN list of states with the best barbecue. Tennessee is on the list, which makes sense to me. I used to live in Memphis and the barbecue there is excellent. And so, by virtue of Memphis being in Tennessee, although just barely, Tennessee deserves its place among the winning states.
Before I go on, let me just point out that the journalists at CNN can claim expertise about a lot of things, I guess. I mean, they've got Fareed Zakaria working there. He seems to know a great deal about international politics, although less about how to avoid charges of plagiarism. (I don't hold that against him, because I, Dale, did not write a single word of this The Note you are now reading. I stole all of it, word-for-word, from a book of essays about Marcel Proust.) Anyway, I'm confident Fareed doesn't know anything about barbecue and so, therefore, by the rules of logic, neither does anyone else at CNN.
Now, this whole travesty goes to the tremendous national confusion about the whole concept of barbecue, which I'm going to abbreviate as BBQ from this point on. If you're in North Carolina, you know what BBQ is and you know that the rest of the country is ignorant of what constitutes good BBQ. Similarly, people in Alabama, despite being excluded by the philistines at CNN from the Best BBQ States list, think the people in North Carolina have no idea what a good BBQ sauce tastes like. If you're in Texas, you believe you know what constitutes barbecue, but this is a Big Texan Delusion because it involves beef. And yet, there they are on the list as #2. Then you've got St. Louis. Which is in Missouri. People in St. Louis deserve respect for their contributions to BBQ.
Many states wisely just stay out of the BBQ wars. Like New York, of course. Except, wait, NEW YORK IS ON THE FREAKING LIST. Oh, nice. New York City gets to rightfully claim all kinds of best restaurants, which you'd think would be enough to create an entire state full of food snobs but, no, they have to be on the BBQ list which is undoubtedly how Alabama got left off.
What I planned was an introduction to this issue, an issue of poems which have as their titles the names of states. We've done this before (archives, 2011). But, this BBQ thing has me distracted. Maybe you noticed.
I want to thank all the authors in this 2015 States issue, everyone who submitted—even if you're work wasn't selected—and, as always, my co-editors, F. John Sharp, F. J. Bergmann and associate editor Laura M. Kaminski.
I'll just say this. Maybe it's just me (it usually is), but I really love the poems in this issue. Love. They just strike me as consistently beautiful.
Even though there's not one titled "Alabama."
It's okay. We're used to this kind of thing.