Tag Archives: Louisiana poetry

LSS: Happy National Poetry Month!

Louisiana poetry...I have three friends who regularly say, “We don’t have enough poetry in the world today.” That sentiment is one of the reasons I know they’re good friends to have. They’re right, of course. We don’t have enough poetry in many aspects of our lives. Though I’m not a fan of rote memorization on many levels, when it comes to poetry, I believe memorization has a place — especially for children. Those poems we memorize as children stick with us.

I can still quote much of Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe because I had to stand in front of my 5th grade class and recite it, thanks to Mrs. Thompson. I checked with many other of her former students, and they remember too. We may not remember much else we learned that year, but many of us can still quote most of the poem — and everyone remembers certain lines and the experience of learning it.

I also believe in reading new poetry, and know that reading it aloud is best.

In honor and celebration of April as National Poetry Month, I asked Darrell Bourque, who was Louisiana’s poet laureate a few years ago, if he’d like to share a poem. He has given permission to use one of his most recent poems, which will be included in Megan’s Guitar, a new collection of his poetry, due to come out in a few weeks. Bourque and his gentle ways are genuine gifts to this community. If you get the chance to hear him read, please do yourself a favor and take that chance. With his permission, here is Bourque’s poem:

CHURCH POINT BREAKDOWN

In Memory of Iry Lejeune, 1928-1955

Before you could walk

someone or another

crossed a leg

and put you on a foot,

gave you your first ride

singing t-galop, t-galop.

It was your first lesson

in mobility, it was

your first dance.

In the playground

or under the oak

you sang Saute Crapaud

with your cousins.

You were learning

double-entendre

along with resilience

and rejuvenation,

an early lesson

in transformational

syntax.

Mostly in the morning

you sang Frère Jacques,

to be awake, a call

in rounds to mindfulness,

to get on with your life,

not to sleep your life away.

And then came the other songs:

Bonsoir Moreau and J’ai Passé,

La Porte en Arrière,

Viens Me Chercher

and Les Flammes d’Enfer.

Everything comes to us

through the body,

the great metered muscle,

maître et maîtresse,

showing us how to sing:

sex and love, loneliness

and desire, how to fall

apart and how to hold

things together,

when to stay,

when to let go.

— Darrell Bourque

Bourque’s beautiful Acadiana inspired poetry motivated me to try my hand at a poem of my own about the Vermilion River and the Pinhook Bridge, topics I’ve given a lot of thought to lately.

Try your own hand at a poem. Send it my way, if you’d like. Let the celebration of poetry continue.

THE POINT BETWEEN A RIVER AND BAYOU

a tribute to Bayou Vermilion District

From where I sit,

the Vermilion proceeds —

backwards.

Tiny white-caps.

Swollen with pride.

A discounted estuary

from Gulf to Pinhook.

Where the river stops

and the bayou begins.

An invisible line divides

Petit Manchac to its source.

What was river is bayou.

What was bayou is river.

Depending on surge and perspective.

The waters — they transform.

The pirates knew.

With help of native people,

pioneers figured it out.

Spaniards built a mission trail

to cross red water.

Civil War battles.

Not one, but two.

Pinhook was the point

where everything happened,

including a restaurant scalawag

who made a habit of reeling in chickens

and offered the name,

retained by an arterial roadway.

Thousands cross each day.

The unseen line is near meaningless now.

A bridge between

sushi and blooming onions

where fish and fur once changed hands.

Centuries of knowledge lost.

When you’ve got wifi,

what does it matter

which way the river flows?