Poetry

Harvest moon reddened with smoke from Oregon forest fires
(September Moon in Pisces, 2022), from a suite of moon photos by Merry Song.
More photos from the suite are displayed on this page.

 

“Guardian of the Creole Groove”: The Poetry of Mona Lisa Saloy

It is an honor to introduce to Persimmon Tree readers Louisiana’s distinguished Poet Laureate,  Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy, poet, scholar, and ethnographer of the unique Creole culture of New Orleans. I met Saloy many years ago, in the first years of my life-altering time teaching at the University of New Orleans in the city that Hurricane Katrina nearly erased. A New Orleans native, deeply rooted in the vibrant city I came to love, Saloy lost her home to Katrina, as she chronicles in some of the poems in this feature. Returning to New Orleans in 2007, she spent many years in a personal quest to reclaim and rebuild the house her father had built and in which he raised his family in the 7th Ward. Saloy went on to an endowed professorship at the renowned HBCU, Dillard University, publishing award-winning collections of poetry and making notable films celebrating / documenting various aspects of Black Creole culture. 
 
Personally, Dr. Saloy is warm, erudite, and—as was redolently evident after Hurricane Katrina— resilient. In fact, as Rudolph Lewis notes in his review of Second Line Home: New Orleans Poems, Saloy emphasizes “the resilience of Black Creole culture, which she views as the core of New Orleans cultural life…. As a teller of tales in the tradition of New Orleans’ excellent oral storytellers, she uses printed verse to mime the voices and intricacies of life lived fully in the Big Easy.” Although they lived fully, people of color did not always have easy lives in the Big Easy. But Saloy makes clear in poems like “Black Creole Chronicle” that her heritage is rich in the “exuberant Arts,” which not only protest but also navigate challenges of endemic violence and structural racism. So much of the protest is deftly encoded in that artistic heritage. As Saloy writes, 
 
. . . . . . . . , we tell kids, there’s
Ancestors in our veins, we
Called to the battlefield of life
Turn stumbling blocks to skipping stones
Slip slap smile or frown
Stories turn our necks around
Hold someone’s good in mind, &
Be safest in somebody’s prayers.
“Black Creole Chronicle”
 
As Saloy demonstrates in this and other poems in this feature, it is the capacity to transform challenges into opportunities that helped people of color not only to endure adverse conditions, but also to thrive. Poems about Saloy’s childhood and family members lovingly recalled (see, for example, “4 my Sister 2” and “Mrs. Bywater”) offer rare details of those efforts. To “hold someone’s good in mind” seems to me a particular psychology of generosity in approaching life from which we all could learn.
 
Dr. Saloy is also known for her scholarship on the significance of the Black Beat poets, especially Bob Kaufman, on the African American Toasting Tradition, Black Creole speech, and such cultural traditions as the funereal marching band process. It thrills me to introduce Persimmon Tree readers to the powerful and moving poetry of the new Poet Laureate of Louisiana, Mona Lisa Saloy.
 
Grateful acknowledgment is extended to the following sources for permission to reprint material:
 
“God was willing Sis: I’m Home” was first published as the featured poem on September 14, 2022, included in Poem-a-Day by The Academy of American Poets. Copyright © 2022 by Mona Lisa Saloy. Reprinted by permission of Mona Lisa Saloy.
 
Selections from Black Creole Chronicles: Poems by Mona Lisa Saloy. Copyright © 2023 by Mona Lisa Saloy. Reprinted by permission of UNO Press.
 
 
1 For those unfamiliar with New Orleans, the 7th ward, which is built on ground below sea level, was where the Black middle class lived. New Orleans was historically segregated by the sea levels of each section of the city. People of color were relegated to those areas below sea level, which flood in severe storms and hurricanes.
 
2 Rudolph Lewis, “Book Review: Second Line Home: New Orleans Poems,” available at: https://aalbc.com/books/bookreview.php?isbn13=9781887160025.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Black Creole Chronicles: Poems

 
 
 

Black Creole Chronicle

Black New Orleans for true
Come Mondays
Some
Some will never see us
Some will never understand
Only some will get us, only
Some will dig our sound
Our joy 
Our style 
Our hip
Reverb our lingo our tales
Tall & squat & old as the world
Will they see who or what she or he is or they are?
 
Our crime was being Black 
Our salvation, faith and
African ancestry replete with exuberant Arts
Adaptable like lizards 
We weren’t supposed to survive whole
Black Creoles say:
“Now you got the picture
With the right pair of drawers on”
 
Creolesboro guardians of the Creole Groove
Creoles can’t stay calm doin’ nothin’.  We
Make guitar or piano solos or 
Wail “one potato two potato” at play, or make
Salad with eggs to kiss your Pappa
Don’t much bother folks
Who wake up to sweet smells of 
Cane syrup laced on Galait pie
Pan-fried shortening bread
Who makes the best oyster stew?
Who shucks ‘em best fast?
We be doin’ 
We be don’
We be don’ Us, but
We “don’t mind waitin’ to see the Lord.”
 
In the meantime, we tell kids, there’s
Ancestors in our veins, we
Called to the battlefield of life
Turn stumbling blocks to skipping stones
Slip slap smile or frown
Stories turn our necks around
Hold someone’s good in mind, &
Be safest in somebody’s prayers. Now,
That’s between you & me & the gatepost. Now.
“That’s between you & me & the gatepost: Ya heard me?”
 
 
 

The full moon of May 2022, post total eclipse,
illuminated my lunar heart, photo by Merry Song.

 
 

At The Whitney Plantation Museum, Louisiana

At the Whitney, the 
Field of Angels
Tells all
 
Woodrow Nash, artist of Akron, Ohio
Creates seventy-one life-sized kids from photos
Replicas of enslaved kids who lived here
Sweet faces with no eyes to
Symbolize the hopelessness of being enslaved
My souvenir pendant tethers a little boy
John McDonald of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
“No, suh, Boss, I can’t read and write; when I was brung up
ef’n my boss man ketch me wit
A pencil and paper, it was 25 lashes.”
Federal Writers Project narratives
Here is their Wall of honor, the
Indigo nation
Generations enslaved
Moussa, Arabic for Moses
Mandingo Nation
Born circa 1778 
None know for sure when, from a
Warrior nation
Coacou, born on Wednesday
Mina Nation
Born circa 1769
None know for sure when, then
Men called bucks, their
Job: make babies, make more slaves
Enslaved work begins by ten
Death comes in ten years for many
No incentive to keep the enslaved alive, a so-called
Renewable resource
1452 Pope Nicholas V
Sanctions enslavement
Pope Nicholas V
Given 250 slaves as a gift
Papal Bull decrees: 
Dark peoples of the world 
Savages to be conquered–giving
Religious coverage for slavery for over six hundred years
All enslaved denied their native names, new last names at Baptism
Required: raised as Catholic, yet 
Rarely buried, mass graves here, 
Here, some two hundred kids
Can’t afford to carry enslaved from the field
2209 enslaved infants born in St. John the Baptist Parish,  
Perished prior to their second birthday
Put into earthen holes
 
Occasionally at the Catholic church; here, 
(Haydel owned eight plantations at his height of wealth) 
Catholic sanctioning of Black enslavement was
Not repudiated
Not ended 
Until 1992 by Pope John Paul II
Who then apologized in Africa
 
At the Whitney, the
Field of Angels, tells all
The whip is the lash of God
Only those who endured can explain
 
 

 
 
 

Mrs. Bywater, My 2nd grade-school teacher

Mrs. Bywater’s home, a single shotgun a
Few blocks away on
Law Street, across from 
What used to be Eddie’s Creole Cafe
Where Daddy could afford to treat
Us all to dinner out together
Ordering anything we wanted: a
Cup of good Gumbo, with a shrimp or
Oyster poor boy, and bread pudding for
Dessert, laced with brandy butter sauce
 
At Epiphany Catholic school, Mrs. B. was one of the few
Teachers not a Blessed Sacrament Nun, who then
Dressed in full Black Habit, a few mean and racist
Mrs. Bywater checked our uniforms 
Reinforced the pride we must take in
Our little selves even at six or seven.  Mrs.
Bywater swung around our
Desks in starched white camp shirts and 
Khaki skirts some slim and shapely like a pear
Some flared, fanning widely 
Her hair coifed like a
Chocolate Loretta Young or a
Home-girl Lena Horne, elegant
“Speak up, slowly. Let me hear your
story, tell your story.”
 
In her class, we were somebody
Already learning that young
Ladies carry themselves with care and
Help each other with book bags or
Lunch or being lookout at the bathrooms with no doors, of 
Cement building blocks for walls, grey and dark
Where toilets choked, so we heard monsters.
Mrs. B. had our brothers escort us to 
Play tether ball or walk home
Laughing but ready for homework and 
Reading prep to come.
 
Mrs. Bywater, because of you,
I am me, educating, documenting 
Our Beautiful Black Culture 
Celebrating you all your years, then at ninety-four, ninety-five, ninety-six
We all love you, now gone to Glory
 
 

 
 
 

Covid 19, 24 June 2020

Nadir says
No one is good 
Now
He’s right
We can’t breathe
 
Our necks bouncing off concrete
Like George Floyd
 
Our heads explode
Like 20-year-old
Justin Howell
Who did nothing wrong or
35-year-old
Jamel Floyd
Pepper sprayed 
His asthma & diabetes
Screaming from mace
Sprayed to death 
We cannot breathe like
Eric Garner’s asthma
Squealed his last words
“I 
Can’t 
Breathe”
 
We’re afraid to be chased
Shot down like rabid dogs
Ask Ahmaud Arbery’s spirit
Shot jogging while Black
 
Grief is too constant
Too long injustice
Just us
Too many Black faces
Litter daily Obituary pages
No one is good
These days
 
 

Happy Springtime Moon to all,
Photo by Merry Song.

 
 
 

Pandemic Poem 15 July 2020 as Bullets Fly

Our 7th Ward is home
Where we know neighbors 
Everybody says “How’re ya doin’?”
“Ya Mamma & ‘Nem alright? Alright?”
“Yeah, ya right. We good BeyBey!
 Ya heard me?”
“G” barbecues on his rear porch
Aroma fuels a bliss of smiles
Plus a taste across the fence
Some kids play tag in the street 
Summer rites of passage heat or no heat, only rain will run them inside
One young Mom sits in her son’s baby pool, sky-blue plastic, enough to cool
Hot feet and a little boy who wants to see his classmates again 
Rising 114 degrees in the shade & too many pandemic put-out-of-days-work 
Waiters, bartenders, hotel cleaners, car washers, grown men
Sit on corners, play Tunk or Poker under Oak tree branches 
Spread across the sidewalk; 
Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks?
No: gun shots, gun shots more
Gun fire rings 
Too Close
9-year old Devonte Bryant shot
Dead at his home
God Bless his Soul
Dad & Mom drowning in grief
7th Ward neighborhood in shock
Neighbors scared stupid
Teen gangs with guns kill kids
Oppression = violence
No safe spaces for kids @ home?
Not in our neighborhoods 
Not in our homes
Not here
No
Not fair
Equality + Justice = Peace
America, do you hear the gun fire?
 
 

 
 
 

4 my Sister 2: Praise Song for Barbara Ann

Sometimes I call her BAP
Black American Princess
She the beautiful
Beating out Shirley Temple smiles at five
Attending Martinez Creole pre-school
Speaking French Spanish skipping first grade. She recalls the time
When Daddy returned from WWII, a Sargent, cook, poet
Hungry to hug his first girl
Sis asked Daddy, “Who are you?”
Threw her bread down on the gravel street in protest, and
Daddy fresh from seeing French kids eating rodents & begging for food
Demanded she pick up the bread & eat it
Aries horns rearing, she stood her in her pride, then
Daddy slapped her straight: “Don’t waste food”
Because Mother sewed tropical seersucker suits by day, it was
Sis who walked me through girlhood, assuring me
I could keep swimming even 
When jim crow refused me Olympic tryouts
Stuck with me as her audience, she doo-wopped with other 7th Ward Creole girls
Danced at home under blue-light backyard parties to Etta James, Fats Domino, or Bobby Blue
Bland slow drags with handsome
Creole boys of every hue & height
Under Mother’s watchful eyes. Sis carved sputniks out of
Halved oranges & toothpicks with cheese perfectly cube-cut at the ends
Daddy strung lights from fences for their fun after dark
In her prom photo
Sis is pretty as a young Dorothy Dandridge or Lena Horne &
Daddy afraid for her beauty
Still laid a heavy hand on her freedom
Summers to Smokey Robinson songs 
We Negro kids swam in water shows like Esther Williams
Sis & I always centered in a heart made of the best swimmers in Hardin Park
Each year with glued sequins on our swim caps to grand
Applause from crowds around the city pool—
She the beauty
Me the athlete & book kid
Both of us inhale good books
Brain food for the senses & spirit
One day, she announced she was leaving
Marrying a tall drink of hurricane–handsome too
Cut his ’55 Chevy into a sports car called Lizzy with
Painted black footprints the size of my fingertips on the side mirror
Out of Daddy’s house for the west coast
Left one jail for another
Once Mother died, and Daddy drowned his grief in booze, broads, drunken
Parties with strange men, there for the Jack, one peering into my bedroom once
Daddy’s face fell flat into the Courtboullion dinner I left for him 
Had to go, & landed on my sister’s doorstep with 
One bag and a new coat I bought with savings from
Lifeguarding or selling pleat-and-tuck pillows 
Hand sewn on Mother’s Singer
Stuck between scared & the next day, I cleaned, cooked their dinners, cared for
My nephew, washed & ironed their clothes, being useful and avoiding a future
My Sister set me up for interviews with Larry Gossett, the activist 
Son of her postal co-worker friend Ms. Johnny; Sis 
Made me go to college, so I went kicking & screaming, then I
Took to it like a catfish hugging river silt; by Grace, I did more. Through
Four degrees, her hubby chided 
“Negro, when you gonna get a real job?”
All along the way, I sewed for big guys–Garfield Heard, Big “Foots” Bob Lanier
Bob MacAdoo, Globe Trotters, boy bands–and Sis sent me love in boxes of beans
Peas, stockings, priceless presents. She said, go ahead
You do what I couldn’t
Study
 
Once a Ph.D., brother-in-law tempered by fighting to stay in unions, to earn
Rightful pay for his journeyman sheet-metal skills, and me working for the R1, he
Shook his head; I did alright, he admitted out loud
 
My sister outlives the love of her life, survives cancer for the second time in over thirty
Years, has two new knees that holler in airport security checks, a grown son,
Sweet friends, & we Jazz Fest each year in the Crescent City
 
These days, I call her Execu-Sis, who fundraises for the Central District Senior Center,
On a hill overlooking Lake Washington; she chairs their Board of Directors, escorts her 
Elders to St. Therese Catholic Church for Sunday Mass, rides ferries in 
Puget Sound with her multicultural book club of ladies, all sistas
 
Today, when the neighborhood owls call morning to light 
Before the hum of interstate traffic rises, I have a 
Dark cherry & soy smoothie, put on the decaf, with
Chicory of course, plan to play something smooth by 
Gregory Porter like “Painted on Canvases” 
One of our favs, & 
Give thanks for Sister love in my life
 
 

How deep those craters must be – How deep and wide infinity stretches my mind
(February moon, slightly waning), photo by Merry Song.

 
 
 

NOLA Post-Disaster 15 years 7 months

Early March breezy but bright blue sky
Sunlight touching every corner, sidewalk, front porch
Eastward wake up to soft tweets above sleepy heads
Little brown bird, fat bellied, no bigger than a 
Sparrow, white-throated, a hermit rarely seen, bird songs
Serenade, a Thrush, a Finch, no matter but a mother
Seeking that spot under the roof eave, boards 
Cracked in half, some fallen post-Katrina,
Repaired good as new three springs ago
When the whole family of Songbirds
Nested there inside from rain, winds, and
Carpenters hired to repair the long-empty
Hole marring the house front porch overhang
Meeting iron trellises on each side framing
The red iron bench, red-rust painted wooden doors
 
Mother sparrow returns each March seeking
Baby Songbirds still nesting 
Squeaking baby birds hungry seeking mother’s 
Treats of seeds, a worm maybe.
Song-bird mom is like former neighbors
Visiting the empty lots between toothless blocks of 
Homes missing, some still standing or rebuilt
They come in between Mardi Gras madness
Or before French Quarter Festival, the
Neighborhood noised only by lawnmowers
Kids batting balls at the park diamond or
Climbing the Kaboom ladder trees with
Red and blue bars for hanging or curves for
Sliding, the neighbors nod a hey now, their
Heads low in memories of the spaces once
Filled with folks on their front porch, an elder or
Grandkids playing Jacks or red light-green light on the 
Sidewalk, all gone, even the house long
Demolished to a void of lawn
Like song-bird Mom, they will never
Forget the smiling faces sucking 
Crawfish heads in spicy joy
Washing the porch of seafood smells with lye
Neighbors look one more time, 
By Grace they
Keep on Making a way, over and over again
Keep on Making a way
 
 
3 Sample line from Gospel song of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir entitled “Keep On Making A Way”
 
 

 
 
 

Love

On my Birthday, he drove into my garage
This time, I had to open & close the door by hand, one huge push
Well, I was impressed
Once our eyes meet
We lean in
Kiss a sweet peck
He handed me a large-beautiful bouquet of flowers, best of the summer season
Star-lily white, trimmed in purple over brighter white than possible by humans
Only God
 
It’s my birthday
He was my High School Sweetheart
What did we celebrate then?
A car-accident concussion
Wiped so much of my life away
Disinfected the hurts, & some happinesses
What were we like then together?
He a baseball wonder of promise
Me a swimmer retired by jim crow, with a
Grieving Dad drinking his sorrows
Each Friday, Saturday night at 
Neighborhood bars The Fox or
Le Chat with night ladies swarming for his pay
 
Today, he brought me dinner
My Fav: Crab cakes from Landry’s + Gumbo
He said he wished it was hot
The secret to reheating Gumbo I said:
Heat the rice separately then
Add hot Gumbo on top
Delighted–heated to perfection plus
Dessert: chocolate cake
This man feels like home, all
Divine, the
Best part
We listened to classic R & B
Frankie Beverly, we
Slow jammed to
The Spinners
“Could it be I’m falling in love
Could it be I’m falling in love, ohh baby
With you with you with you”
 
 

Don’t get in her way; she’s headed toward her eclipse, total, complete, and unimaginable
(Full Moon, May), photo by Merry Song.

 
 
 

#metoo

Violence is not always heard or guessed but
Whispered in shadow
Snuck around corners
Hidden under scarves &
Wrists of bruised bracelets or when
Pretending to be asleep and
Tickled awake, scared awake by
Unwanted fingers, mouths, and 
No one is safe
No one escapes
Even the almost advances
The hint of I’ll get you, the
Glares between stares of 
“I’ll kill yo’ mamma if you tell,” or
“Nobody’ll believe you anyway, “so
If you see something 
say something
tell somebody &
someone will listen
may hear the fear in the
Throat, that cracks 
Between breaths of
Scared-silly calm, a cover
Like a hat on a bad-hair day
Scars under the skins are
Tender long after threats 
Leave hearing range
If you see something 
say something
tell somebody &
someone will listen
may hear the fear
 
Once behind the dilapidated shed in the
Backyard, when all the kids played loud &
Ran around the poles for hanging clothes
Three boy cousins, boys over 10 years old
Dragged me, their little five-year old girl 
Cuz with puffs of hair above each ear, their little
Cuz pushed to sit on the big 
Galvanized tub used for crawfish or ice or crabs
It will be fun they said, but 
Take off your skirt
Take off your panties
Laughing they said
I’m scared of a whipping but 
More scared of not belonging
Pulled down my skirt
Pulled down panties
Exposed my little rear end to the
Air and mosquitoes and eyes of 
Boys laughing their heads off
Taking turns slapping my little bottom
And me ashamed and crying &
Boy cousins coaxing me to pee &
I’m so afraid to move &
Tears streaming down my face &
Boy cousins laughing their heads off
 
Until a neighbor, mentally-challenged Alton, hopped the fence
Grabbed the little me, pulling up my clothes
Slapped the boys to the ground
Before they knew what hit them &
Aunts, uncles, neighbors came running to
See my BIG neighbor carrying me crying snotty now
Under one arm and Alton
Dragging my two boy cousins by the collar with
His other hands long, fat, and wide like a fan
Not letting anyone go, then all the
Parents screaming since the neighbor was
Over 30 years old and mentally disabled, the
Aunts, uncles, neighbors thought he was going nuts
Between the screams of the boys &
I’m crying, a little five-year-old girl me & the
Babbling of a 6 feet-tall man child, now 
Screaming that the boys 
made that
Girl do nasty stuff nasty stuff” was all
He could shout “nasty stuff & they
Made her cry” & 
Me too scared to 
Scream for help, so
He dropped them all at once after 
All the Aunts, Uncles, and neighbors
Pulled at him from all sides for what seemed like an eternity
Making no headway & he holding on for
Justice for right for standing up for his                        
Little friend, me, who shares peppermints with him
Who gave him fudge I made for his birthday
Who sang his name in the mornings on the
Way to school and when coming home, “Heyyyy 
Al-ton!” He saw something
He said something & 
it was days before
All the aunts, uncles, and neighbors
Realized who was really at fault
Who really deserved a whipping?
Who needed to apologize & get punished, since
This was not kids’ games, but pain poured at play?
 
No one is safe
No one escapes.
Every woman I know has a tale 
This is mine.
If you see something 
say something
tell somebody &
someone will listen
may hear the fear 
& help
 
 

I caught the Full Moon in Leo, trying to escape into cloud banks.
The trees reached out and held it back with magical pine needles empowered to mesmerize even the moon, if only for a second,
photo by Merry Song

 
 
 

God was willing Sis: I’m Home

God was willing Sis, I’m Home
Rebuilt our little shotgun house
Daddy bought for $2000 on the G.I. Bill post
WWII in the 7th Ward.
Wide enough to love two families at a time, double,
Long & thick like a bulldog, stocky with a sturdy gait
Seemingly indestructible
With turn-of-the century
Plaster & lath between walls held by red-brick fireplaces
Anchors for kin to hold on to
Steady, outlasting many storms
From Betsy to Camille, hurricanes that came &
Went like occasional visitors who
Overstay their welcome.
Here, we saved every book we ever had from
Old Bibles listing births, marriages, Deaths, to 
Sherlock Holmes and Harvard Classics,
Two dictionaries American Heritage & Webster’s, plus 
The American Peoples Encyclopedia,
That answered questions Daddy or Mother couldn’t from newspapers:
The States Item, but especially
The Louisiana Weekly
Where Negroes had starring roles as newly married or
Debuted, or swimmers Medaled in photos with their
Part-time coaches, Full-Time Teachers like 
Vic Vavassaur, with their own kids too
Who spent summers, Saturdays & after-school time 
Teaching us regulation sports from
Baseball, football, swimming to supervised play, where
We were all a team, and neighbors and
Grudges never lasted more than an hour or
No longer than a busted 
Lip that’s gone when the swelling fades and
Heals like our sunburns and
Summers between thundershowers
We see coming blocks away
Our shot-gun castle
Our guardian of refuge from those
Jim crow days in our 7th Ward Neighborhood
When we had all we needed for comfort, & summer fun of 
Shaved ice or hucklebucks, and
Winters without cold and
No gun shots
 
 

A reckless shot of the total solar eclipse,
Oregon, August 21st, 2017, photo by Merry Song

 
 

Lying Down with Dogs
by Linda Caradine
  Lying Down with Dogs is a memoir told in interrelated essays about the years Caradine spent starting and running Other Mothers Animal Rescue. As in any worthwhile endeavor, life has a way of intervening, and she includes some of those non-animal adventures in her tale, as it is all a part of the Other Mothers saga. From rescuing kittens under a house to finding a farm sanctuary that would take in a pig, from birthing puppies to cats in the freezer, she tells the inside – often crazy – story of what is involved in managing such an enterprise. But Lying Down with Dogs is first and foremost a story of the animals and the impact they have had on the author’s life through its many ups and downs. Sometimes, they’ve provided love, sometimes diversion and, always, they have prepared her for what comes next. Ultimately, her love of animals is the story of her own redemption.
Available from Amazon and Bookshop.org.

Bios

Mona Lisa Saloy, Ph.D., the new Louisiana Poet Laureate, is an award-winning author and folklorist, educator, and scholar of Creole culture in articles, documentaries, and poems about Black New Orleans before and after Katrina. Currently, Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor of English at Dillard University, and Louisiana Folklife Commissioner, Dr. Saloy documents Creole culture in sidewalk songs, jump-rope rhymes, and clap-hand games to discuss the importance of play. She writes on the significance of the Black Beat poets—especially Bob Kaufman—on the African American Toasting Tradition, Black talk, and on keeping Creole to today. Her first book, Red Beans & Ricely Yours, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Her collection of poems, Second Line Home, captures New Orleans speech as well as family dynamics and celebrates New Orleans, the unique culture the world loves. Saloy’s screenplay for the documentary Easter Rock premiered in Paris at the Ethnografilm Festival, and at the national Black museum. She's lectured on Black Creole Culture at Poets House-NYC; the Smithsonian; Purdue University; the University of Washington; the Woodland Patterns Book Center; and recently in U.C. Berkeley’s Holloway Poetry Series. Her documentary, Bleu Orleans, is on Black Creole Culture. She is an editorial reviewer for Meridians: Feminism, race, transnationalism. Her poetry has appeared recently in I am New Orleans, anthology (University of New Orleans Press, 2021); the Chicago Quarterly Review, Vol. 33; Anthology of Black American Literature; and Obsidian Water!!! Magazine 2-22, Tribes journal NYC, April 2022; and most recently in the national anthology Black Fire This Time !!! Mona Lisa Saloy writes for those who don’t or can’t tell Black Creole cultural stories. www.monalisasaloy.com Tweet to @redbeansista. Go to ArtsMart to purchase her work.  

Cynthia Hogue’s most recent collections are Revenance, listed as one of the 2014 “Standout” books by the Academy of American Poets, and In June the Labyrinth (2017). Her tenth collection, instead, it is dark, will be out from Red Hen Press in June of 2023. Her third book-length translation (with Sylvain Gallais) is Nicole Brossard’s Distantly (Omnidawn 2022). Her Covid chapbook is entitled Contain (Tram Editions 2022). Among her honors are a Fulbright Fellowship to Iceland, two NEA Fellowships, and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets (2013). She served as Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day for September (2022), sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. Hogue was the inaugural Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University. She lives in Tucson. Go to ArtsMart to order both her most recent book of poems and her latest translated work.

Merry Song started taking pictures with a Swinger Polaroid camera when she was 12. In her 20’s, she studied 35 mm photography while earning a BA in Filmmaking and Broadcasting. Later she completed an MFA in Creative Writing. All the while she answered the urge to document her life through photography including faces, nature, and celestial appearances.

5 Comments

  1. Your poetry is breathtaking and thought provoking. It has a beauty that Charles Deslondes, Denmark Vesey, Gullah Jack, Marie Laveau, Nat King Cole, would appreciate in a very deep way.

  2. Beautifully and richly layered poetry that speaks from and to the heart. Exquisite.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *