Ava Leavell Haymon



Ava Leavell Haymon is Louisiana’s poet laureate and the author of the poetry collections Eldest Daughter, Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread, Kitchen Heat and The Strict Economy of Fire. She teaches poetry writing in Baton Rouge and directs a writers’ retreat center in the mountains of New Mexico.


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Eldest Daughter: Poems

In Eldest Daughter, Ava Leavell Haymon displays her mastery of the craft and uses her poetic gifts fans 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-20th 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.


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