Kitchen Heat records in woman's language the charm and bite of domestic life. Ava Leavell Haymon's poems form a collection of Household Tales, unswerving and unsentimental, serving up the strenuous intimacies, children, meals, pets, roused memories, outrages, and solaces of marriage and family.
Some of the poems are comic, such as "Conjugal Love Poem," about a wife who resists giving her husband the pity he seeks when complaining about a cold. Others find myth and fairy tale lived out in contemporary setting, with ironic result. Others rename the cast of characters: husband and wife become rhinoceros and ox; a carpool driver, the ominous figure Denmother.
An elderly female is Old Grandmother, who creates time and granddaughters from oyster stew. The humidity of Deep South summers and steam from Louisiana recipes contribute to a simmering language, out of which people and images emerge and into which they dissolve again.
Denmother went to college in the 60s,
could pin your ears back at a cocktail party.
Her laugh had an edge to it,
and her yard was always cut.
She grew twisted herbs in the flower beds,
hid them like weeks among dumpy marigolds.
The wolfsbane killed the pansies
before they bloomed much.
She'd look at you real straight and talk
about nuclear power plants or abortion. At home
alone she boiled red potatoes all night
to make the primitive starch that holds up the clouds.
Poet Laureate of the State of Louisiana, Ava Leavell Haymon’s most recent poetry collection is Eldest Daughter, published by Louisiana State University Press. She has written three previous collections, Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread, Kitchen Heat, and The Strict Economy of Fire, all also from LSU Press, and edits the Barataria Poetry Series, which will premiere Spring 2014. Her poems have appeared in journals nationwide. Prizes include the Louisiana Literature Prize for poetry in 2003, the L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award for 2010, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2011 Award in Poetry. Why The House Is Made Of Gingerbread was chosen as one of the top ten poetry books of 2010 by Women’s Voices for Change. A committed teacher of poetry writing, she worked as Artist in the Schools for a number of years, teaches poetry writing during the school year in Louisiana and, during the summer, directs a retreat center for writers and artists.
Found an Error? Tell us about it.