I am a poet and novelist who grew up on a tobacco farm in South Carolina. My debut novel, Lightningstruck, which won the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction (Mercer University Press, 2016), is set in Marion County, SC during the height of the tobacco industry in the early 1960s. My fourth collection of poems, Wild Juice, is forthcoming from LSU Press, as the 53rd volume of the Southern Messenger Poetry Series. The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014) won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize for Poetry. My poems and short stories have appeared in many journals including Shenandoah, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, and in anthologies such as The Southern Poetry Anthology, IV: Louisiana and Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry. Recently appointed Poet Laureate of Caddo Parish, I live in Shreveport, Louisiana, with my husband, the poet David Havird, and our own best dog in the world.
ABOUT MY WORK
My poetry and fiction owe their beginnings to the landscape of my childhood, the farms and swamps and woodlands of the American South.
Lightningstruck, a coming-of-age story set in a historical context, grew from my own experience growing up on a tobacco farm during the Civil Rights Era. That world, that landscape no longer exists, but I have carried it with me, both the beauty and the ugliness. Relationships with the land, with family, with society at large, and with history itself—these themes permeate the novel and extend into my poems.
Many of my poems are grounded in the time and place of the novel. Others travel, dragging the dust and folklore of the South to Europe and the Caribbean. Spoken largely from a feminist perspective, these lyric poems—whatever the setting—speak, as does the novel, to tensions in relationships: those of the human family to the environment, between humans and animals, and within families themselves. These themes find a loose narrative structure in my three published collections: Dirt Eaters, Sleeping with Animals, and The Garden of the Fugitives.
"Writing close to the bone, Ashley Mace Havird stares unflinchingly at what most people turn away from; hers is a spare, honed language that refuses to embellish truth with ornament. The echoing music and vivid imagery of her poems carry powerful emotions, but with a fine restraint whose understatement intensifies their ironies, their truth, like a taut spring that releases its charge in the mind." Eleanor Wilner, author of Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems