Winner of the 2006 Akron Poetry Prize
In Big Muddy River of Stars, her second full-length collection of poems, Alison Pelegrin continues her celebration of the quirks and characters of south Louisiana, tempered now by the devastations of hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. These sassy poems come on like a carnival parade, with boisterous shout-outs to sleepy rivers and Big Shot soda, crawfish and trailer trash and those “git-r-dones” who rebuild homes ravaged by hurricane and high water. Presiding over the book is the spirit of Chinese poet Li Po, Pelegrin’s prodigal mentor and drinking buddy. Sharing his “exultation” and “taste of recklessness,” she wants to write “the Li Po way— / wine and the wide world.” And she does. With lines that laugh and rage and slur in the piquant tongue of her native Louisiana, Pelegrin knows how to play the blues in a bold and irreverent key.
With Li Po as her muse, and a subject matter ranging from home-wreckers, honky-tonks, and jackalopes to post-Katrina tragedy and survival, I’m afraid I’m stumped to find a fitting figure for the utterly unique voice of Alison Pelegrin in Big Muddy River of Stars. Dorothy Parker by way of Brother Dave Gardner? Some unearthly brew of Amy Clampitt, Pearl Bailey, and the saucier at Antoine’s? Words fail me, but certainly not Pelegrin, who writes some of the jazziest, high-velocity, funny, serious, and, if I may say so without causing the keepers of the gates of high culture to wet their pants, entertaining poetry I have read in a long time. For those who hate poetry, try this book. For those who love poetry, this is your lucky day.
—B. H. Fairchild