Lit Louisiana highlights the state’s contemporary literature and brings significant books and authors from the past to the readers of Verite.
Jarvis DeBerry and Kelly Harris-DeBerry comprise two aspects of literature in Louisiana that both contrast and feed one another.
DeBerry is a former columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune whose hard-hitting pieces make up his recent volume “I Feel To Believe.” The book was the One Book One New Orleans choice for 2022. His interviews about the book and his experiences as a journalist are available on YouTube.
His collection of columns from a 20-year stint as a local journalist provides good reading for those who wish to put our locality into context with today’s headlines. Dean Baquet, former executive editor for The New York Times and a New Orleans native called DeBerry’s book “an always ravishing collection.”
On the other end of the writing spectrum — as the impeccable truth-telling of journalism is as near to the sciences as the humanities — is Harris-DeBerry. She is a poet, whose book “Freedom Knows My Name” reflects her immersion in the arts.
She is a podcaster, digital storyteller and alum of Cave Canem, the premier Black poetic incubator in the United States. While her book occupies a different literary form, some of her poetry addresses the same issues of democracy and survival as her husband’s work.
“Who is worthy of homes and prayers and bulletproof churches?” The poem resonates with the questions that New Orleanians asked after Hurricane Katrina and often following the daily incursions of violence.
Yusef Komunyakaa published “Neon Vernacular” 20 years ago and received the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize for the book in 1994, the same year he won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.
Serving in the Vietnam War as a journalist, he is proof of the wide spectrum of literature that comes from Louisiana and even from the soul of one writer. A Bogalusa native and recipient of the 2007 Louisiana Writer Award. His most recent book is “Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2021,” published last year by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
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