The most notable things I liked about Sheryl St. Germain’s “Let it Be a Dark Roux” starts with the title, and then continues on to let us know by details about place, family life, that she is rooted in Louisiana culture. Roux is explained in the poem, “Making Roux”. One especially noteworthy poem, “The Lake” describes Lake Pontchartrain, and its evocative details, “rotten smell”, fish … open-eyed to the surface, dark waters and gray-peppered foam, remind me of some of the swampy places around Orlando and really paint the differences parts of the south have compared to many other environments. I like it that this element, the Cajun culture, is used as an outer theme, although other themes also exist such as that of family addiction problems, desire, and her need to become somebody she wanted to be.
Her use of repeated elements, there are many open mouths for instance, also food, pepper, fish, water which connect the poems and resonates between them. Many times her use of her Catholic upbringing shows up in small details. For me, the open mouth reminds me of being fed the Eucharist instead of receiving it in hand, and suggests to me, the poet’s ability to receive in an open fashion and also as an expression of desire.
Some of the poems have distinctly feminine points of view that I think are quite original; such as the need to find solace in making love after a funeral, while memories compete seen in “Deathbed”. Another good example is in the poem, “Thinking About Being a Woman as I Drive from Louisiana to New Mexico” which mixes in some of the less appealing cultural practices like the wearing of girdles or the binding of women’s feet in China.
So structure wise, I read this collection as primarily linear in time although in certain places the poems return again and again to different stages in her brother’s heroin addiction (link takes you to some unpleasant images of how addicts live) or her own use. Even though the first line of “Flambeau Carriers” is “Red-eyed and sweating whiskey”, the repeated “I loved” has an enticement into a different milieu and then the next poems reinforce it. It also ends with “Joy” and the sense that the author has come away from a previous life into a new one.