Barnburner, by Erin Hoover
BARNBURNER by Erin Hoover is the winner of the 2017 Elixir Press Antivenom Poetry Award. Contest judge, Kathryn Nuernberger, had this to say about it: "The epigraph to BARNBURNER is a call to burn it all down: 'According to an old story, there was once a Dutchman who was so bothered by the rats in his barn that he burned down the barn to get rid of them. Thus a barn burner became one who destroyed all in order to get rid of a nuisance.' There is honesty in this epigraph, raw and brutal, like the narrative voices in Erin Hoover's poems. But there's an irony at play here, an irony perhaps borrowing a bit from the ironies of Frost's 'Mending Wall': these poems don't burn down the cruelties of a homogeneous, racist patriarchy. Instead, they make a muse of it. A muse that can be objectified, stripped bare, and put on a pedestal for all to scorn. Hoover fridges that muse so that one speaker of a heroine after another is vaulted by the shock of such violence into a journey of personal discovery. There are mean-spirited, ruthless characters in these poems and, in a kind of reverse Bechdel test, Hoover wipes away their inner lives and never lets them talk to each other about anything except those they have hurt."
Erin Hoover was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry and Best New Poets, and in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Pleiades. She earned a Ph.D. from Florida State University and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she teaches writing.