A remarkable debut collection about identical twin sisters and their parents’ struggle with addiction. Read More
“I am busy seeing,” declares the reverent and ever-curious speaker of Mustard, Milk, and Gin. In this haunting debut, Megan Denton Ray unflinchingly sifts through the sediment of a girlhood ruled by service. Everything in these poems sweats—the sunflower working hard for its first pair of leaves, the sister feeding her twin like a father, the men and women working in a community ravaged by the opioid crisis. With tender restraint, Ray’s poems question the infallibility of devoutness while finding solace in the classification of the natural world. What results is a powerhouse voice that chooses preservation above all else. No poppy, wild carrot, or honeycomb is too small a treasure as Ray weaves stories of loss and mercy through both dreamscapes and domestic scenes alike. The forgettable and forgotten ignite--these poems are gifts of curiosity and care.
"Mustard, Milk, and Gin belongs to the poetic genre of Southern feminist noir, running perhaps from Judy Jordan down through Carolyn Hembree and Melissa Range. What distinguishes Megan Ray’s lyric gift is her eye for the perfect telling detail, “My grease” (after a shower) that “calls out I am, I am, I am,” or the claim (later in the same poem) that “Here, / God holds his candle to my candle, a leopard-print votive / with the fizz of a damp rocket.” These are ecstatic poems, not poems that proceed from ecstatic experience, rather poems that conjure their own difficult, often violently flawed ecstasies through the power of language and voice." —G.C. Waldrep, prize judge