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10 Things from a Tribune Tastemaker: Will Justice Drake

Poet Will Justice Drake (Photo by Mayce Hodges)

In this creative new weekly series, local author, artist and all-around entertaining and eccentric (not to mention classy!) Southern gentleman Ben Johnson South introduces Cullman Tribune readers to the creative thinkers and doers in the Cullman community.

“10 Things from a Tribune Tastemaker”

This week, meet Will Justice Drake, poet

Friends, Alabamians, countrymen, lend poet Will Justice Drake your ear and he will share a thing of beauty he has written which will be a joy forever. Sure, candy is dandy and liquor is quicker, and even Will Justice agrees he shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree, but this Alabama Poet Laureate-in-the-making is creating art and truth for the ages. After completing his Master of Fine Arts at North Carolina State University (Raleigh) and teaching in south Alabama, this published poet/educator/native son of local storytellers, Sharon and John Drake, has returned to Cullman with his wife, Mallory, and their son, Judah. A second son is due in December. Will Justice Drake is teaching English and journalism at St. Bernard Preparatory School. ( Here, saluting the Alabama Bicentennial, Will Justice Drake offers his suggestions for “10 POEMS EVERY ALABAMIAN SHOULD KNOW.” Also, grab your scissors, ready to save, a previously unpublished, and VERY Alabama, Will Justice Drake poem shared first by this TASTEMAKER with you, dear reader, of The Cullman Tribune.


  1. “Letter Already Broadcast into Space” by Jake Adam York (Gadsden)
  2. “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall
  3. “Birmingham, 1962” by Diann Blakely (Anniston)
  4. “When Howard Became Jesus” by Charles Ghigna (Homewood)
  5. “ABC-ing After All” by Sue Walker (Foley)
  6. “Ghost at My Door” by Ansel Elkins (Talladega Co.)
  7. “14 haiku (for Emmett Louis Till)” by Sonia Sanchez (Birmingham)
  8. “Praying Drunk” by Andrew Hudgins (Huntingdon College, Montgomery)
  9. “Jambalaya” by Hank Williams (Georgiana)
  10. “Marine Biology” by Andrew Glaze (Birmingham)


“STORM IN JULY AFTERNOON” by Will Justice Drake (first published, The Cullman Tribune, October, 2018)

There is the moment at the birth of storm
when the sky pulls a blanket up over the world,
and the whole land’s breathing and heaving swirls
back in hot silence—
no chirp, no caw, no scrape of the worm.
All at rest, stark naked in dim light, under the stark white sheet,
and only the trees dare move, their souls resilient and ringed,
trembling not in fear but in thirst for what the cloud brings:
saturated root, limbs
freed from the scorching heat.
The first thunder comes less as a splitting than the rub
of a large millstone turned and turned and turned
as if to smother rather than douse everything burned,
as though the dragging belly of some beast of God named
Grace has finally come.

Copyright 2018 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.                   

  • Poet Will Justice Drake (Photo by Mayce Hodges)