I was offered a place at an artist’s residency called Soaring Gardens for the month of September. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to finance a month of writing without a source of income, so I launched a GoFundMe campaign. While I haven’t yet hit my goal amount, I’ve been inspired and encouraged by the generosity and support of everyone who’s donated and that has made me more determined than ever that this is going to happen.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share a list of what I’ll miss about New Orleans while I’m gone for the month. I’ve picked 6 things for the 6 days left of the fundraiser, which wraps up next Wednesday, August 20th.
1. My communities of friends, fellow writers and artists and other tango dancers. All the coffee dates, writing meetings and tango events that I would otherwise attend were I here. This includes one regular Peauxdunque Writers Alliance meeting and a special tango workshop with amazing teachers.
2. Saints games! I’ll miss the first 4 regular season games, unless I can find a local bar and convince them to show the games. The house is very rural, so this could be touch and go. But even if I do manage to watch them while I’m gone, I’ll miss the experience of watching them with friends *here* at places like Pelican Bay.
3. Speaking of Pelican Bay, one of my favorite things to do lately is pick up one of their daiquiris and take it to Indywood Theater (they’re close to each other on Elysian Fields and Indywood is BYOB). I’ve seen so many amazing movies there recently and their August calendar looks great. I’m afraid to even see what I’ll miss in September.
4. While this isn’t technically a New Orleans thing (or in Sept), I’m going to miss the So You Think You Can Dance tour at the Saenger on October 1st. I’ll be driving back from the residency then, unfortunately. Darn!
5. Whenever I’ve left Louisiana in the past, I’ve craved good red beans and rice as soon as I cross the state line. So I’m sure that will happen now. And I’ll miss the roast beef po’boy at Parkway Bakery. I’ll miss a lot of other favorite restaurants/dishes, too many to name, but I know I’ll miss being able to get those red beans and that roast beef po’boy. It’s only a matter of time.
6. I’m not sure what I’ll do without the New Orleans Public Library. While the house has a library, I have been so spoiled by our wonderful library system and librarians. Books, movies, music, all at my fingertips. They just had a wrap party for their summer reading program and had adult summer reading activities all summer as well. But, in any season, the library is my mainstay. I’m going to be very sad when I take all my borrowed books back, and when I suspend all my holds. That will be the moment when I’ll know this dream I’ve been working toward has become a reality.
I know I’ll miss so much more than this (and people will be the biggest part), but I think I’ll be surprised by what I’ll miss once I’m at the residency. Luckily, it’s only a month and I’ll be back for the Louisiana Book Festival and Words & Music and… It will be a lot of fun to enjoy those six things (and everything else) once I’m back, having missed them for a little while. I hope you’ll enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer in the meantime.
There will be a going away party/celebration this coming Sunday the 17th, starting at 2 p.m. at Pelican Bay. If you’d like to contribute to the campaign, send me off or just enjoy brunch and daiquiris, you should swing by.
Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.
Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.
Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.
“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.
I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook. I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).
#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.
First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.
Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying) at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.
Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.
Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.
And, from the men:
My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.
Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.
And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?
New-To-Me Blog of the Week
To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!
A few months ago, there was word going around town that there were Bald Eagles flying around the city.
Imagine my surprise to find the active eagle’s nest around the corner from my house!
It’s really cool to watch them!
They’re a gorgeous pair!
And they have two of the cutest chicks!
One of them is now a fledgling… I caught him one morning returning to the nest.
Just another day in NOLA,
Pretty awesome isn’t it?
This is the first of a four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile will highlight a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.
This week we feature Kelly Harris. Kelly earned her MFA in poetry from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. She has been awarded fellowships by Cave Canem and the Fine Arts Work Center and won a Wendy L. Moore Emerging Artists Award from the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. Her poems have appeared in Say It Loud: Poems for James Brown, Yale University’s Caduceus, PMS, The Southern Women’s Review, PLUCK Magazine, DrumVoices Revue and other publications. The Kent State University graduate serves on the board of STAIR, (Start the Adventure in Reading) and is the editor/founder of brassybrown.com
Kelly will be speaking at The Contemporary Arts Center on April 18th in celebration of National Poetry Month and the 30 Americans Exhibition.
Stick Fighter for Winnie Mandela his breath on your neck his morning posture at the breakfast table keepsakes of an ordinary wife freedom is not a love story jumping the broom is a weapon against those who see no danger in a woman wearing a gele crossing the threshold of her forbidden country she is mad as the man she married can’t wait for God’s will demons are necessary there must be blood concrete to kiss a modest woman will not have her name carved in stone freedom is not a love story Winnie the iron that sharpened him all those years into a fist ~ ©Kelly Harris
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to choose this craft?
As a child I could always recite speeches and poems. I don’t really know how I developed the skill. I just always remember speaking somewhere and being mindful at an early age. I’ve been writing seriously since I was an undergraduate at Kent State University. I entered the university as a magazine journalism major, but it was always poetry that had a hold on me. I won a pageant contest my freshmen year. My talent was poetry, and soon after I become a poetry editor for the Black student’s publication and ran a poetry series that’s still active today. I don’t think I ever woke up one morning and said to myself, “I’m going to be a poet today.” I believe life calls us to become who we are meant to be.
Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
Poetry is my first literary love. My blog, BrassyBrown.com, allows me to stretch my writing and of course, share my poetry. I just finished a major writing project about Black women in New Orleans that should be released soon by a nonprofit. I also do freelancing when I can. I am in the process of trying to find interest for my children’s book manuscript called “My Hoodie Keeps me Warm.” It’s the story of a group of African-American teenage boys being racially profiled. I am looking for a press for my poetry manuscript, “Revival.”
What is your earliest recollection of writing and poetry as a passion? Do you remember your first poem?
My first poem was called “Be a Leader Not a Follower.” I wrote it in 5th grade at my grandmother’s coffee table. I used to write poems in a spiral, pink Mead notebook. I threw
away many of my earliest poems because I was teased for being a poet. There weren’t a lot of poetry programs in the schools I went to. I didn’t pick up writing again until about 11th grade. I grew up in a very poor neighborhood. The great thing about my street was people were always talking, gossiping, cussing, and when you juxtaposed that with jump rope songs, hip-hop, my mother’s music collections, attending church with my family and black girlhood, it makes for great poetry.
Is writing your full-time occupation?
I wish. I’m a stay-at-home-mom and do contractual gigs in literacy, strategic planning and business writing. This may be hard to imagine, but I think becoming a mom has helped me become a better writer. It’s sharpened my attention to details and sound. To watch my 18-month-old daughter’s evolution of speech really has helped me think about language as a unit of the body.
I’m always interested in the writing process. Tell us a little about yours. Do you ponder a poem for a while, keeping it in a draft stage and working on it periodically or do you write it all at once, as the inspiration and words strike you? How much editing do you do on a piece?
I can sit and write a blog a lot easier and faster than a poem. Being a mother has forced me to write at God-awful-times, but I get it done because I do see writing as my life’s job. Most of my poems begin handwritten. When I type poems, I edit too fast. It’s just too convenient to backspace. I’m more likely to delete lines or words that may be useful later. I often do mental mapping of my poems. It helps me weed out clichés and tendencies and helps me see the possibilities for a poem.
Do you have a favorite place to write that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
I write when and where I can, but I must admit I don’t write well in crowds or with lots of noise. Libraries used to be my ideal place, but now they are not guaranteed places of silence. There are very few public places where you can find solitude. Usually when everyone is sleeping, I am writing.
Do you have any tips you can share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?
I have an MFA in Creative Writing and I sat through all sorts of lectures about motivation and discipline. First, it takes courage to write and hard work to write well, but the writing process is a lot more complicated than that. I’ve learned that everyone is different. I’ve tried to sit down each day and write on a schedule. I just can’t do it. I’m not wired that way, and my life is too hectic for structured writing. I make sure I take in a lot of music, interviews, reading, conversations and vocabulary words so that I am stock piling ideas and energy for poems to come. I’m always working on about 3-4 poems at a time. And I keep a journal of lines I’ve never used and mental notes that I sometimes use for things I’m working on. (See photo sample below)
Whose work has inspired yours?
It depends where I’m at in my life and what I’m writing. I recently just bought “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth” (Mouthmark Press) by Warsan Shire. She packs a lot into a line. Recently the poetry world lost Wanda Coleman and Jayne Cortez—two amazing poets of color. I’ve been re-reading a lot of their work. I bought a Sonia Sanchez album, “A Sun Lady for All Seasons” last month and she’s really got me thinking about how to effectively use repetition and sound.
Speaking of sound … Bobby McFerrin. I’m not talking about “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” He’s amazing. To me there is no other human voice on the planet that creates sound and words the way he does. My 18-month-old taps her chest and improvises with him when I watch him on YouTube. It’s pretty funny, but in watching her and him, it’s a great lesson in the art of timing.
Where do you see yourself with regard to your writing in 5 years?
Hopefully I can increase my publishing credits and teach. I really miss teaching poetry to young people. I’ve had brief opportunities to guest instruct at NOCCA and Lusher, and I loved it.
Please share five poetry books you’d recommend.
“Blacks” by Gwendolyn Brooks (I mean, do I really have to explain?)
“Rice: Poems by Nikky Finney” (“Head Off and Split” won the National Book Award for Poetry but her other books are worth reading too).
“Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African American Poetry” edited by Dr. Jerry Ward (Former Dillard University Professor)
“How I Got Ovah: New and Selected Poems by Carolyn M. Rodgers” (Not as widely known, but should be).
“The Never Wife” by Cynthia Hogue (I bought this book at Dauphine Books in the French Quarter and had no idea there would be some poems about NOLA in it. It’s a wonderful book)
Thank you, Kelly, for this inspiring interview!
Originally posted on the mosquito coast:
This weekend the Hogs for the Cause was held in City Pork, a benefit for families that have been impacted by pediatric brain cancer. It was an incredible event, with great music and great pork. The mud made the event complete! If you want to see some more pictures and read more commentary, browse through the #hogsforthecause hashtag.
I got there early and upon entering, the Pig Sexy booth was ready to go, serving up steamed pork buns, which were delicious!!!
The 555 Sauciers were ready with the best chocolate covered bacon!
Mr. Pigglesworth’s booth had a hawker in pink pig costume, one of many booths with team members in costume!
Kevin Bacon’s Balls representing!
And of course the all femmes team, Sweet Swine O’ Mine were representing as well!
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During the month of April, Poetry Month, I’ll be featuring four women poets from Louisiana. They will tell us their writing process, what they read, who they admire, what their favorite words are and many, many other things. They will share a poem with us. They will be beautiful examples of why you should date/love/marry/admire/emulate women who write.
It’s going to be great.
“You should date a girl who reads.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”
― Rosemarie Urquico
I had thee best time Wednesday! Sit down a spell and I’ll tell you all about my pretty darned awesome experience riding with the Mystic Krewe of Nyx.
My riding experience actually began Tuesday with float loading. All of the floats are pulled out of the barn and brought to a place undisclosed to the public. We’re given a 3 hour window to load and/or check our throws. You could feel the excitement around the floats as the sisters were busy getting their throws ready for the big night. The men were just as awesome as ever….checking to see if anyone needed help carrying throws or putting bike hooks up (we use them to hold throws). We just needed the rain to hold up.
The weather wasn’t looking all that great for us. It rained Tuesday and light showers were expected around our time to roll.
But remember, I said it wouldn’t rain on Nyx the year I rode with them.
And the rain held up!
Wednesday morning began with a light breakfast at home. I had some last-minute float things to do which took some time so I stayed pretty close to home until it was time to leave. Around 10:30 a.m. I dressed in full gear and headed out to the float loading area once again to drop off my decorated purses.
The pre-party began at noon. I arrived around that time and checked in to enter the hall. Security is very tight at the pre-party and you have to show identification to enter. Once checked in, I received my wristband and I was good to go! The pre-party was off the chain! It was held at Generations Hall … they did a wonderful job. The staff was excellent and there was more than enough food and spirits to keep over 1200 women happy!
Mardi Gras music filled the hall as the ladies talked, laughed and enjoyed being around other nyx sisters.
After a while, we could hear the sound of brass in the building. Well, with a brass band in the house, only one thing was going to happen…
time to second line!
Did you notice all the different color wigs and headdresses? That’s because every year, there is a headdress competition. Each float comes up with an idea that’s related to the theme of their float and create headdresses to wear. There were some pretty spectacular headdresses…there’s a lot of creativity in the krewe.
The pre-party was about 4 hours long. I enjoyed every last-minute of it. It was wonderful being around so many happy women who were eager to spread that happiness on to the City of New Orleans. Shortly after the headdress competition, we were called to board the floats. Each float had a designated sister holding a sign and we followed that person to the float.
That’s when it really hit me!
The waiting patiently to receive an invitation to join, all the hard work and dedication it takes to create purses..its all been for this moment,
TIME TO RIDE!
Once boarded up and ready to go, we were escorted by the New Orleans Police Department to the staging area. During this time riders began organizing more of their throws or just took a minute to take it all in.
I took it all in.
Here’s a short clip I created of the ride and how the floats move to the staging area.
This is where the bands and dancing troupes are waiting to “fall in line” with the floats.
Once we reached the staging area and the band scheduled to march in front of us fell in line,
IT WAS ON!
Here’s a clip of the parade coming down the street
We began to throw like crazy to the crowd! You go through sensory overload with so many people screaming for throws for 5 miles, but I enjoyed every single second of it.
The joy that you see when you give someone a throw is priceless. I particularly loved giving decorated purses to those who did not think they would get one from me.
The crowd was very gracious!
Posters for purses were everywhere! It was spectacular!
A sinus attack kicked in on me around Lee Circle and by the time I made it to the end of the route, I was toast.
I’d do it all in a heartbeat though…sinus attack and all.
It was just that fabulous!
Thanks to all my wonderful friends,family and readers who came out in the cold to support me and the krewe. It means so much to me that you were there for my inaugural ride.
The city showed the Krewe of Nyx so much love that night.
I’m looking forward to many years of riding
with this wonderful krewe,
in this fabulous city.
History and recent renovation information of LeBuef Plantation here. (Click photos to embiggen.)