Mud Song

Terry Ann Thaxton

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A landscape of pine forests, palmettos, gopher tortoises and armadillos contains the clues that guide Terry Ann Thaxton’s search for herself. As a sixth-generation Floridian, she knows, however, that the natural world is never more than a stone’s throw away from its destruction. The path she follows takes her to the edge of the past’s sinkholes and the daily chaos of roads forever under construction. These poems make sharp turns. Trauma is never far from beauty, desire never far from fear, and images are often as surprising as they are stunning: “I know the value / of mud on a dog’s paw. I want to wake / and disappear into the minutes / where the crows fly. / I want someone / to leave me in the clouds / and carry my gown across the night.”

Kevin Prufer, author of Churches, In a Beautiful Country, and National Anthem, served as this year’s judge. He said, “In ‘Mud Song,’ the swamps, back roads and small towns of Florida transcend setting and become something akin to personality.  These are wild, harrowing, brightly colored poems, bristling with violence and trauma.  The poet’s language surprises and delights.  Her wit is deft and sharp.  The engines that power these vivid poems are memory, desire, fear and, at times, a kind of holy rage.”

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Description

A landscape of pine forests, palmettos, gopher tortoises and armadillos contains the clues that guide Terry Ann Thaxton’s search for herself. As a sixth-generation Floridian, she knows, however, that the natural world is never more than a stone’s throw away from its destruction. The path she follows takes her to the edge of the past’s sinkholes and the daily chaos of roads forever under construction. These poems make sharp turns. Trauma is never far from beauty, desire never far from fear, and images are often as surprising as they are stunning: “I know the value / of mud on a dog’s paw. I want to wake / and disappear into the minutes / where the crows fly. / I want someone / to leave me in the clouds / and carry my gown across the night.”

Enjoy Terry Ann Thaxton reading from Mud Song here!

Contents

Prelude
History of America

Part One
Alligators
Afternoon Forecast
The Dog in the Garage
Florida Survival Guide
Dead Owl
Drought
Escape
What Remains
Road Rage

Part Two
Arbor Day, 4th Grade
Big Pine Key
The State Forever Under Construction
Say One Word to Me
The Worship of Oranges
Cold War
Family Reunion
Letter of Forgiveness
Sundays

Interlude
The Truth About Florida

Part Three
Some Women
Protection
The Three Dancers
Children Without Their Own Beds
The Envelope
Near Dusk
As a Child You Learn

Part Four
Map of My Room
Landscape
Soldier’s Creek Trail
Invisible Week
Mud Song
Passion Flower
Window Seat
Break Me
Florida Trail, Hopkins Prairie
Woman at Park Near Lake Monroe
Remember the Night I Almost Threw Myself Off of the Jetty into the Crashing Waves?

Part Five
Things to Do in Your 50s
Walk or Fly, but Do Not Look Down
Tonight
When Those Days Come
Moon, Stars
In Memory of Me
Permanence
The Oldest Plant in the Yard Speaks: Spicy Jatropha
Pagan Shoes

Postlude
Terry Reminds Herself How to Live

Acknowledgements

Authors

Terry Ann Thaxton has published two previous collections of poetry: Getaway Girl and The Terrible Wife, which won the 2014 Florida Book Award Bronze Medal. Her textbook, Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide, is a result of more than a decade of work training college students to provide creative writing opportunities to marginalized groups. Her poetry and prose have been published in journals such as Rattle, The Missouri Review, Connecticut Review, Hayden’s Ferry, West Branch, Tampa Review, Cimarron Review, Cold Mountain Review, Teaching Artist Journal, Connotation Press Online Artifact, and others. She is professor of English at the University of Central Florida in Orlando where she teaches creative writing and serves as the MFA Program Director.

Reviews

Kevin Prufer, author of Churches, In a Beautiful Country, and National Anthem, served as this year’s judge. He said, “In ‘Mud Song,’ the swamps, back roads and small towns of Florida transcend setting and become something akin to personality.  These are wild, harrowing, brightly colored poems, bristling with violence and trauma.  The poet’s language surprises and delights.  Her wit is deft and sharp.  The engines that power these vivid poems are memory, desire, fear and, at times, a kind of holy rage.”

“Like Heaney in North, Terry Thaxton digs deep to unearth a past both personal and cultural—here, the past of all those long-buried Floridas that survive under the one we think we know best, the Florida of the last ten minutes.  Thaxton’s willingness to make herself vulnerable moves me, her insistent openness teaching the earth itself a thing or two.  In return, the earth provides these elegiac poems their wonder, a worshipful amazement that even the oranges seem to shine with in the end.”
—David Rivard, author of Standoff

In his poem “Farewell to Florida,” Wallace Stevens proclaims that “the past is dead,” but that’s not true. Just ask Terry Ann Thaxton. Standing at the intersection of human and personal history, these elegant, visually stunning poems sing a world, a life, both feral and sublime and remind us it’s not the past that makes us who we are, but rather, it’s what we do with it. What Thaxton does with it is make unforgettable poems. Bravo!
—Jay Hopler, author of The Abridged History of Rainfall, Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry