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Eldest Daughter


96 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

ebook available


  Hardcover / 9780807153369 / August 2013
  Paperback / 9780807153376 / August 2013

In Eldest Daughter, Ava Leavell Haymon displays her mastery of the craft and engages us with the poetic gifts we have come to expect from her. As in previous collections, she combines the sensory and the spiritual in wild verbal fireworks. Concrete descriptions of a woman’s life in the mid-twentieth-century American South mix with wider concerns about family lies and truths, and a culture that supports or forbids clear speech.

In a passage from “The Holy Ghost Attends Vacation Bible School,” the physical world of children interplays with the divine: 
The least likely place the Holy Ghost ever descended
was in east Mississippi. Red clay hills
and church politics soured on years of inbreeding.
Every deacon drove a pickup. At Bible School,
the kids played red rover and rolled down
the sharp slope behind the Baptist church.
He recognized the dizziness at the bottom
and the fear of having your name called,
but the grass stains, the torn blouses,
and sprained wrists—these were beyond Him.
Haymon’s poems encourage us to revel in the natural world and enjoy its delights, as well as to confront the difficult realities that keep us from doing so.

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.

Praise for Eldest Daughter

“Haymon presents us with the protestant projection of St. Theresa’s passions into contemporary America. Her fruits of spirit and flesh are exquisitely halved on the communion/collection plate: Go ahead, eat them. I mean it.”—Andrei Codrescu

Eldest Daughter by Ava Leavell Haymon is lush with fathers, ghosts, and the ghosts of our fathers. . . . Wrenchingly powerful.”—New Delta Review

“What I find most impressive about Ava Leavell Haymon’s Eldest Daughter is the poet’s voice—equally at home with the Holy Ghost and basketball moves, at times extremely funny, at times devastatingly frank about horrendous realities, always making the most of what language has to offer. It’s a pleasure to read this book, as it’s so lively and entertaining on the one hand and moving and heartbreaking on the other. I love the details—of which there are many—from descriptions of fishing lures to descriptions of small-town church politics and landscapes. Haymon is especially terrific at the sestina, a form that can be deadly and predictable in the wrong hands. Her sestinas—particularly the one that opens the volume, but, really, all of them—are exceedingly lively and full of surprises; rollicking is the word that comes to mind.”— Jacqueline Osherow

"'Eldest Daughter,' is as confrontational as it is inventive." - Andrew Burnstein, The Advocate

Poet Laureate Spreads the Word About Louisiana Poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, Ava Leavell Haymon discusses the state of Louisiana poetry with NPR reporter Ann Marie Awad. Listen to the interview and readings from Haymon's poetry.


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