Flare Stacks in Full Bloom: Poems (The Margaret Lea Houston Series) (Paperback)
Flare Stacks in Full Bloom is a collection of eco-feminist poetry set in southeast Texas. This region, sometimes called “Cancer Alley,” is home to the nation’s largest oil refinery. It has also been on the front lines of climate disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, the historic flooding from Tropical Storm Imelda, and just last year, Hurricanes Laura and Delta. It’s a region that feels the tension of climate change: economically, it is dependent on the oil industry, the same industry that poisons its citizens and threatens its lands existence as sea levels rise. Flare Stacks in Full Bloom explores this tension through a chronicle of Hurricane Harvey—before, during, and after the storm, through formal poetry (sonnets, villanelles, and blank verse narratives).
from "Flare Stack Eden"
You smell it like a snake, from miles away—
this Eden made of benzene, naphthalene
and gasoline. The smokestack garden never
rests. It works through day and night, like any
forest does. It turns the blood of earth
into the fuel that makes it sing this dusk
chorus of whistles, bells, and whooshing flame.
You look up, imagining these towers
as tupelo trees that scrape the sky.
All around you, pipelines form a labyrinth,
meandering like streams for endless miles.
The whistle blows like Bachman’s sparrow’s song,
beckons your return as you slip on
your work boots once again to toil through
the nightshift, promising a world of green.
Suddenly, a flare stack blooms as quickly
as a burst of evening primrose, fills
the sky with something almost beautiful
in vibrant hues of gold and cherry red.
Standing at the gate in awe, you breathe,
tasting the awful cost of paradise.
KATHERINE HOERTH is the author of four poetry collections: Borderland Mujeres (SFA University Press, 2021) The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue (Angelina River Press, 2018), Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014), and The Garden Uprooted (Slough Press, 2012). She is the 2015 recipient of the Helen C. Smith Prize for the best book of poetry in Texas and the 2017 Langdon Review Writer in Residence. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines including Summerset Review, Valparaiso Review, and Southwestern American Literature. In 2017, Katherine joined the English and Modern Language department at Lamar University as an Assistant Professor of creative writing and Editor-in-Chief of Lamar University Literary Press. She is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and lives in Beaumont.
“These poems rooted in East Texas capture the complexities of living there—the love and the loss, the pines and the refineries—the beauty, sure, but also the enduring cost.”
“Do not sleep on this collection. Katherine Hoerth’s latest work here, in Flare Stacks in Full Bloom is a tightly threaded trip across all things Texas. Katherine captures every ecosystem, every breath and bloom and blaring horn that lays along the South and East parts of Texas. This collection draws you into Beaumont, into the Rio Grande Valley, into the heart of Harvey, into the memory of floods and immigration check-points. Katherine fills her gas tank and takes you with her. She feeds you ‘an eternity of sweetness.’ These poems call me back to all the places I have known and never knew. This collection quietly beckons you to stay still in the light of a refinery flare, to stay still in the sunlight, watching nature still flourish in between highways and concrete. Katherine’s energy in this collection serves to remind the reader that we are all migrants, that we are always moving, toward something better, away from being prey. This collection sings the truth about the dusty world we live in, but celebrates all the green, all the good – ‘You can't help but be lovely in a field like this...’”
—Lupe Mendez, author of Why I Am Like Tequila (Willow Books, 2019), 2022 Texas Poet Laureate
“We live in a world rich with subline ironies and many are unseen or ignored. Hoerth’s true poet’s eye reveals them to us here in a collection of ingeniously crafted pastoral poems, gifting us with the compelling detailed images of the oxymoronic environment of the Gulf Coast, East Texas, where, flame comes into existence/blue with desire, flare stacks erect/like a temple, congregations of birds/baptize themselves as the sprinklers click on, fresh tortillas de harina,/scents of sweet café de olla,/rising from the corner gas stations/like incense from an altar,flares burn bright…no miracle/of nature, but of our machinery. /The poet watch’s the sunset all night long, imagining the hum of flame is birdsong, where we find, the dulcet breath of magnolia and gasoline, and a reprieve scented with pumpkin spice/and benzene. After reading these poems, the reader might imagine Thoreau in a cabin on the coast of East Texas.”
—Dave Parsons, 2011 Texas State Poet Laureate, author of Reaching For Longer Water