Mona Lisa Saloy with Jericho Brown, a former Dillard University student who won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Credit: Courtesy of Mona Lisa Saloy

Lit Louisiana highlights the state’s contemporary literature and brings significant books and authors from the past to the readers of Verite.

Mona Lisa Saloy is unquestionably a good choice for the 2022 Poet Laureate of Louisiana. She has stayed close to her roots and uses literature to explore the emotions of her home state. Her focus is local, but her imagery is universal. This poem is from “Second Line Home: New Orleans Poems”:

Louisiana Lore

Why go barefoot in Louisiana?
Holy Ground
American by birth
Louisianans by Grace
God’s Country,
Chaque corps importe
(everybody matters)
New Orleans, a
Creole Country
by Baptism, a
Local Call to God

You can find Saloy at the neighborhood meetings, in her office at Dillard University, or on her porch. Still, compare her to the South American writers whose love of the particular makes up some of the richest and most spiritual books. “Second Line Home” is her most recent book of poetry but “Red Beans and Ricely Yours” won the T. S. Eliot prize in 2005. “Between Laughter and Tears: Black Mona Lisa” was an early work in 1995.

Saloy was the Grand Girot at the 2022 MAAFA commemoration. Her reading in Congo Square was a lyrical history of the people who came to the city, the pressures that beset them, and a recognition of the honor they deserve. The MAAFA memorial included a ceremony of her reading and words from a variety of inspirational voices, music, and dance. It concluded with a walk to the Mississippi River to remember the known and unknown ancestors. Read Saloy’s latest book and find the connections between her work and our Afro-Louisiana lives.

EMBERS

The “Norton Anthology of African American Literature,” general editor Henry Louis Gates, is not focused on Louisiana, but it is a great resource if you’d like to get up to speed on the history of Black writing and oral and musical literary legacies. The book is expensive in its latest edition (right now, Third). Get an earlier edition and add it to your home library. It’s a good investment for your family. Read it from cover to cover, slowly over the years.

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Fatima Shaik

Fatima Shaik is the author of seven books including "Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood," the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2022 Book of the Year. She is a native of...