Missouri poet and college professor Phillip Howerton will discuss his recent anthology, "The Literature of the Ozarks" at Hobbs State Park in northwest Arkansas on Sunday, August 18.

The collection of regional fiction was published by the University of Arkansas Press in February 2019.

“I attempt to define the Ozarks as a geographical and cultural place, to define Ozarks literature, and to identify several trends and themes that run through the body of Ozarks literature," Howerton said.“This is not the greatest hits album but rather an organized and critical survey that presents the ugly, the bad, the good and the great literature of the region. The Ozarks and its literature are often not taken seriously, and this anthology is intended to be a beginning point of a focused, ordered, and critical study, the type of study that has been granted to literature of other American regions. Readers will be introduced to several writers and themes they may be unfamiliar with and they will be prompted to think in new ways about the regional literature they are familiar with."

Authors presented in the collection include an Osage priest, an early explorer from New York, a native-born farm wife, African American writers who protested attacks on their communities, a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, and an art history professor who created a fictional town and a postmodern parody of the region’s stereotypes.” In total, the book presents work from a diverse group of 41 authors.

Amazon phrased it well. “The job of regional literature is twofold: to explore and confront the culture from within, and to help define that culture for outsiders. Taken together, the two centuries of Ozarks literature collected in this ambitious anthology do just that. The fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama presented in The Literature of the Ozarks complicate assumptions about backwoods ignorance, debunk the pastoral myth, expand on the meaning of wilderness, and position the Ozarks as a crossroads of human experience with meaningful ties to national literary movements.

Howerton said when he began the project, he believed there would be relatively little Ozarks-based literature, but he soon learned there is a large and diverse body of writing about this region. Howerton said this story needs to be told because Ozarks literature has generally been omitted from the study of American literature history.Howerton said the Ozarks is a small corner of the world, but just like every other place, it is a crossroads of experience, and all places and people should be taken seriously in our shrinking world."In most instances, I offer no judgment of the text's literary value or of its other strengths or weaknesses," Howerton said. "Other than correcting a few obvious typographical errors, I reproduce them as they originally appeared. All innovative dialect and intentional misspellings were reproduced."Howerton said the Ozarks is a small corner of the world, but just like every other place, it is a crossroads of experience, and all places and people should be taken seriously in our shrinking world.

Phillip Howerton is a sixth-generation Ozarker and was brought up on a small dairy farm in southern Dallas County, Missouri. After spending several years as a milk truck driver, beef farmer, and production worker, he earned degrees in English, history, and education from Drury University and a doctorate in American literature and rhetoric and composition from University of Missouri-Columbia.

He is a professor of English at a small Ozarks university, co-editor of Cave Region Review: A Regional Journal of Visual and Literary Arts, and general editor of Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies. His poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, such as Arkansas Review, Big Muddy, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, The Midwest Quarterly, Plainsongs, Red Rock Review, River Oak Review, and The South Carolina Review. Two of Howerton's poems also appear in Yonder Mountain: An Ozarks.

Howerton will present his program on Sunday, August 18 at 2 p.m. at Hobbs State Park, at the conservation area visitor center located on Highway 12, just east of the Highway 12/War Eagle Road intersection near Rogers, Arkansas.