Wednesday, March 17, 2010


One of the events I will miss, now that I’m no longer in New Iberia, is the second Evening of Poetry and Performance on April 30 at the A&E Gallery on St. Peter Street.  My friend Darrell Bourque, with whom I read poetry at the First Poetry and Performance Evening, will introduce Ava Leavell Haymon who teaches poetry writing in Baton Rouge and who is also director of a writer’s retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  This poet’s third volume of poetry is entitled WHY THE HOUSE IS MADE OF GINGERBREAD and has been endorsed by Claudia Emerson, Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry in 2006.  Emerson describes Haymon’s new book as one that has an “insistent version of magical intensity and power.”  I know that the performance will be one that I will regret not having stayed in Teche country to hear.

Claudia Emerson, Haymon’s endorser, has read at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference for several years and has been published by the LSU Press in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  In 2008 she read many of her poems from LATE WIFE and received considerable applause for her rendition of “Pitching Horseshoes,” a poignant work about the demise of a marriage in which the husband spends his evenings pitching horseshoes while the wife “alone, washes up the dishes/or watered the garden to the thudding/sound of the horseshoes in the pit...”  Emerson is professor of English at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a spot where some of my Greenlaw kinfolk live.  She also holds the Arrington Distinguished Chair of Poetry and is Poet Laureate of Virginia.

The conclusion to Emerson’s reading was a surprise act in which her second spouse, Kent Ippolito, a musician who plays bluegrass, blues and rock, went onstage with a guitar slung around his neck and began playing for Emerson.  She sang one of her poems that reflected the anger she felt about the divorce involving her first husband, the horseshoe pitcher.  The husband/wife act brought down the house, and by the time I got to the University bookstore the following day, every copy of Emerson’s LATE WIFE book of poetry had been sold.

If A&E Gallery continues to sponsor poets, perhaps Emerson and other distinguished poets will appear on the venue.  Brava Paul Schexnayder for providing the space for noteworthy artists and writers to present and perform their art.  New Iberians who attend the readings also appreciate our Louisiana poet laureate, Darrell Bourque, who acts as an emissary for poet luminaries to perform in “The Berry,” otherwise known as New Iberia.

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