Southern Poetry Review was founded in Florida in 1958. In 1962 editor Guy Owen moved the journal’s headquarters to Raleigh, North Carolina, where it remained for fifteen years. Southern Poetry Review then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Robert Grey edited the publication from 1978 to 1990. In 1990 he passed the editorship to poets Lucinda Grey (his wife) and Ken McLaurin. In 1994 McLaurin assumed sole editorship of the journal and remained in that position for eight years. Robert Parham became editor in 2002, and under his auspices the journal moved from Charlotte to Savannah, where it is hosted by the Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy at Armstrong State University.
After its move to Savannah, Southern Poetry Review underwent several marked changes that were immediately apparent to longtime readers. Most notably, it discontinued publication of poetry reviews in order to publish more poetry. Additionally, the journal developed a new look and began featuring cover art by contemporary artists.
Despite such changes, the editorial intentions of the journal have remained the same. Throughout its long history, Southern Poetry Review has published some of the most notable poets in American writing, including Billy Collins, Maxine Kumin, Linda Pastan, R. T. Smith, and William Stafford. In addition, Southern Poetry Review editors publish the work of emerging poets, and the journal awards $1,000 to the winner of its annual Guy Owen Prize.