Southern Messenger Poets, LSU Press 2021
The poems in Wild Juice explore change—from prehistoric extinction to present-day environmental degradation, and, closer to home, the death of the poet’s father and her own aging. Yet running through these lyrics of loss is a current of hope, the richness of communal life. This richness is given substance by the juice of wild grapes, which baptizes the poet’s chin and that of her elderly father, a figure who haunts the book.
"I go for a walk,” Ashley Mace Havird writes, commencing one poem with a factual accounting that recalls the great story-teller Dickens and the equally great observer Thoreau. In Wild Juice she flexes her own distinctive, straight-ahead narrative skill by mixing her soulful sense of connectedness with a musician’s ear for the intricacies of speech, its richness, its idiosyncratic prospects. Hers is a fine-tuned kind of folk music, filled with family wisdom—spirited, playful, witty—but possessed of range that includes a sweeping catalog of subjects from Homo naledi (Star Man) to current-day hospice care, from the coming-of-age 1960s to recent flash-points of Sandy Hook and the rapid “polar thaw.” Havird writes with canny aptitude of our shared cultural identities, of her family’s delights and “tour[s] of grief,” and of her own reflective self-portraiture, “bingeing on Cheetos; / osteoarthritis in my knees, hips, toes….” Is she winking a little at Emerson? “Language,” he wrote, “is fossil poetry.”
—David Baker, author of Swift: New and Selected Poems