Ebb Tide Down South

Because our land and culture change, someone must document things. The calling summons me.

—Tom Poland

“Tom Poland is an inquisitive man who keeps an eye out for extravagant chunks of nature, disappearing cultures, and people who are salt of the earth. He has ridden those so-called back roads for years chewing foods, sipping drinks, absorbing stories, and documenting his finds. Change is what Poland touches upon frequently.”

So wrote Wayne Ford of the Athens Banner Herald, and he’s right. After years of assignment writing, I set out to write my stories about the loss of things Southern. The change led to good things—a play for Swamp Gravy, Georgia’s official Folk Life Theater, two books, and a busy speaker’s circuit.

My path to publication took time. I didn’t just pop up. At the age of nine, I won honorable mention in a Father’s Day essay contest in the Augusta Chronicle. Much later my confessional “Saw Shop Blues” explained how a boyhood job in Dad’s shop working with tools, saws, and gasoline turned me toward words.

From legal pad to typewriter to iMac, I dedicated myself to creating a sense of place. My friend and former editor of Sandlapper Magazine, Aida Rogers, acknowledged my effort. “As someone who has been his editor more than once, I can attest to how committed he is to the written word—willing to drive miles to capture the right mood for his elegantly written stories.”

Today, my work appears in magazines throughout the South. Recent books include Classic Carolina Road TripsGeorgialina, A Southland As We Knew It, and Reflections of South Carolina, Vol. II. I continue to write columns about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and changing culture.

And now I bring my craft to SCG Magazine. My goal is to put you in the middle of the action. Were you a sea-struck child? Close your eyes right now and feel the surf around your legs, cold and rushing and clutching like a thing alive.

A patient writer who loves lyrical passages, I want my words to fall into place naturally, like sand settling around a wind fence, grain by grain. My words will let you see the colors of the Earth in spartina-rich marshes, inhale the salty air of October’s gold-blue estuaries, and behold luminescent surf lines beneath a full moon.

In the ordinary I see magic. Consider an air plant gothic, beautiful, and feminine, ghostly, surreal, and haunting. Oaks draped in Spanish moss never wear out the eyes.

Besides conveying beauty, honest words acknowledge reality. The trawler at sunrise ranks among the more photographed coastal scenes. Life on a trawler seems romantic but it’s not. Up at dawn, the shrimper works a long day, but that’s okay. Shrimping gets into a man’s blood. And so does writing.

Like shrimpers, shorebirds, and crabbers, we’re foragers all. My hope is that you will find sustenance in my narratives. I grew up in Georgia. Nothing’s worse than growing up landlocked once you’ve had a taste of the sea. In time the benevolent winds of fate would send me across the Savannah into South Carolina where a writing life unfolded. Now I will write in SCG Magazine about the South, the Lowcountry, and more. If I do my job right, my words will transport you straight into Lowcountry settings and adventures.

As yesteryear’s South recedes like the ebb tide, my beautiful burden is to collect its treasures and share them. Together, we’ll “chew foods, sip drinks, and absorb stories.” Let’s start with “Memories of Bonneau,” a forced rite of passage that educated me, as you’ll see.

Because our land and culture change, someone must document things. The calling summons me.

—Tom Poland