Jason McCall, an Assistant Professor in English at the University of North Alabama, has been named the Poet-in-Residence at the 2022 Southern Foodways Symposium scheduled for Oct. 21-22 in Oxford, Mississippi.

McCall Named Poet-in-Residence at 2022 Southern Foodways Symposium

Sep. 27, 2022

Michelle R. Eubanks , UNA, at meubanks@una.edu, 256.765.4392

Jason McCall, an Assistant Professor in English at the University of North Alabama, has been named the Poet-in-Residence at the 2022 Southern Foodways Symposium scheduled for Oct. 21-22 in Oxford, Mississippi. It is an honor that McCall, who is an award-winning poet with multiple published volumes, said “is doubly sweet.”

“I am always humbled to have any group or organization take an interest in my work,” he said. “Creative writing has always been a hobby to me. I started writing in ninth grade, and I’m still surprised by the opportunities that writing has given me. Writing has allowed me to travel to a number of different colleges and universities. Writing has allowed me to teach at a great school like UNA. This event with SFA will be another fun writing adventure.”

The theme for the 2022 symposium is barbecue – what is it, who makes it, and how the craft is changing. “From sliced beef brisket to pulled pork, from tacos to fire-roasted vegetables, barbecue speaks to the past, present, and future of the South and to the stories of pitmasters – the places they work, the smoke they conjure, and the sauces they stir,” reads the Southern Foodways Alliance, or SFA, website.

McCall, whose book a man ain’t nothin’ is published by Porkbelly Press, has had several of his poems appear in Gravy, the SFA journal and podcast duo of original narratives from predominantly southern writers. It is his poetry that caught the attention of SFA Founder John T. Edge, who liked McCall’s work and invited him to publish several of his pieces in Gravy.

In his piece “Are They Black Owned?”, McCall launches right into the debates surrounding white sauce and “whether it counts as a barbecue sauce, a dressing, or just another weird gift from the gods of North Alabama.” Another of his poems, “When My Wife Gets to Tell You About White Sauce” explores the quintessential nature of white sauce – what makes it too heavy (too much mayonnaise) or too light (not enough vinegar). This piece will resonate with anyone who has ever enjoyed white sauce, or hopes to, and who knows when they have found just the right blend to have with their smoked meat, which should, in fact, be served only on chicken.

Being asked to participate in the annual symposium is recognition not just of his poetry, McCall said, but of his – and other southern artists and writers – contribution to his craft and the region he calls home.

“As a teacher, writer, and community member, I want to do my part to let everyone know that the South has art and artists that can match any region in the nation or the world,” McCall said. “The Southern Foodways Alliance does a lot of great work to celebrate Southern art and artists. With their reach, they could have invited any of the great poets we have working in the South right now, so I’m thankful that they have invited me to have this opportunity to share my work and celebrate the South through this celebration of food, culture, and art.”

Dr. Cheryl Price is the Chair of the Department of English at UNA, and she said McCall’s inclusion as “Poet-in-Residence is testament to the relevance of his work.”

“I am pleased but not surprised that Mr. McCall has been chosen for this honor, which will be an opportunity for him to share his award-winning poetry at one of the premier food events in the U.S.,” she said. “The poems Mr. McCall will be sharing at SFA probe the connections between food, memory, and identity.”

Those themes are clear in two of his pieces that appear in Gravy. “My Grandmother’s Pound Cake Is as Close to Communion as I’ll Ever Get” and “When It’s Hard to Name Your Favorite Restaurant Because It’s Hard to Name the Dead” both dive into food and how it creates distinct memories of people and place.

Dr. Sara Lynn Baird, the Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, said McCall’s poetry “evokes the power of family and memories, reminding us that food and those that prepare such delectable dishes are significant for us all. This important honor for Mr. McCall is evidence of his skill in poetic expression and brings recognition to him, our English Department, and the University.”

For more on the Southern Foodways Symposium, click here.

About The University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering credential, certificate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering; Business and Technology; Education and Human Sciences; and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. The first-choice University for more than 10,000 on-campus and online students, UNA is on a bucolic campus in Florence, Alabama, part of the historic and vibrant Shoals region. Lions Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: www.una.edu and www.una.edu/unaworks/