Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy



Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy
Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy
Author & Folklorist
Dillard University
2012 UNCF/Mellon Fellow
“Handling Disasters & Hurricanes with Heart:
Post-Katrina Poems”
New Book Proposal
Mona Lisa Saloy
Controlling Idea
Award-Winning Book
Parts, sections
Nationally Featured
Sample poems
Recent Pubs
New this time
Book Proposal
Why Significant?
Key Issues
Plans for Publishing
Professor of English, Dillard
University, 21 years
(taught at U. of WA--2
yrs., LSU-6 1/2 years, UC
Berkeley, SF State--2 yrs.,
Laney College & City
College of SF--2 yrs.)
LEH Scholar & Storyteller,
Prime Time
NEA Poet S.F.A.A.H.C.S.
T.S. Eliot Prize Poetry
PEN/Oakland Josephine
Miles Poetry Prize 2006
Tied for the Morgan
Prize from StoryLine
Press 2005
Creole Glossary
2012 Spring
Truman State
University Press: 15
T.S. Eliot Prize poets,
25th TSUP Anniversary
Outsold only by the 1st
T. S. Eliot author
Readings, workshops in
classes, web blog
Nationally Featured
In October of 2006, The
National Constitution
Center in Philadelphia
commissioned Dr. Mona Lisa
Saloy to compose and perform
a poem entitled “We”
celebrating 2006 Liberty Medal
Recipients: President William J.
Clinton and President George
H.W. Bush, “We,” the most
important word in the
Book, Listing
Books with my work
Home Girl
Recent Publications
“Missing in 2005: New Orleans Neighborhood
Necessities,” The Southern Poetry Anthology,
Volume IV: Louisiana, December 2011, editor,
William Wright.
"Zora Neale Hurston on River Road: Portrait
of Algiers, New Orleans, and Her Fieldwork,"
Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, Volume
21(December 2011): 43-61.
"Sidewalk Songs, Jump-Rope Rhymes, and
Clap-Hand Games of African American
Children." Children's Folklore Review. 33
(2011) the “Forward.”
Night Sessions: Poems by David S. Cho.
Saloy Introduction. New Jersey: Cavankerry,
“Enduring Creole Terms,” Journal of
Southern Linguistics. Southeastern
Conference on Linguistics. 36.1 (2012): 173182.
New Book Proposed
Humidity & Heart:
Post-Katrina Poems,
working title
Original & fresh
perspective to
apocalyptic event
Handling Disasters &
Hurricanes with Heart,
new sub title
What happened to the
Creole Culture?
Anticipated PostKatrina & 2nd
collection of verse
Struggle amid
Proposal cont.
Who survived, how?
Who didn‟t?
Poetic skill +
Celebrates Cultural
continuity & inner
strength of families
Style: From free verse,
to prose poems, to
sonnets; lots of lyrics
and narratives
Opening essay:
“Disasters, Nature, &
Presidential Poems
Creole Glossary
sample from Essay
“ . . .far too many blank spaces. What is left are holes in our neighborhoods, holes in our hearts,
and a vast interruption in our lives. Those survivors who were torn from their homes or were
forced to climb high for dear life and stranded on rooftops will relive that nightmare forever. So
many of us lost relatives, friends, neighbors who were extended family for generations. Our
names go back centuries. In New Orleans, we are a place of families linked by tradition, and
those traditions allow us to continue with some sanity. If we allow ourselves to grieve, we may
survive to go on again. If we do not grieve, or do not acknowledge the need to grieve, that loss
and disappointment may linger and haunt us, causing its own disasters. What language can
capture such loss of power and presence? What form can include such shock? What images can
paint such a history? Poetry. Poetry allows us to relive these natural and unnatural disasters and
let go, sometimes with humor, sometimes with a profound sense of understanding that only a
trope can capture, only a complex of awareness and experience wrapped in language that paints
stories. These poems are what is left when dreams die, when worry ripples in waves, when life
goes on, and all that is natural fades to be reborn. . . .
It is through verse that we make some sense of our world. Poets are not journalists
snapping photos. Poetry weaves words to record not just what happens but what sense can we
make of it, what is important for us to consider, what is good for us to keep.
Published in Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry,
Camille Dungy ed., University of Georgia Press, 2009.
Section Titles
Table of Poems
See You in the Gumbo!
Requiem for the Crescent City
Creole Families: Étoufée Talk
Hurricanes & Hallelujahs
Presidential Poems
New Orleans Matters
Glossary of Creole Terms
Completion to date
60 ms pages at
application; then, 60
pages of verse + FM
Now: 84-page manuscript
to date, 70 poems, front
matter, essay
To Go: 10-12 poems,
Glossary of Creole
Terms, either essay as
afterward or interview to
Sample Poem
New Orleans: Broken Not Dead
in honor of lost lives in NOLA & Claude McKay
If we must break and loose our land to them
Hunted and penned in an inglorious dome,
From signs and lies and tales too tall to find
Making their mock at our drowned homes
While round us each to sweep to dig to build
With wood with brick with steel so strong and clean
Our culture food our dance we love to live
Though first out numbered, we ache we show us brave
Our craftsmen carve and pour our iron our wood
In vain for months we search our loves our lost
Then build one wall one floor one door one roof
The stench the dead so long in heat with us
Like men and women, bold, we take our pact,
Pressed to our knees, held down but kicking back!
Mona Lisa Saloy
10 August 2010
For President Obama
God Bless President Obama & U.S.
We’ve been fighting
Fighting, fighting
For freedom
Since Virginia’s first Black backs
Went from indentured servants
To slaves overnight
We’ve been fighting
Fighting, Fighting
Almost 400 years
Almost 4 centuries
Fighting the specter of racism
Till November 4th 2008
When 100 year old women and men
Black, Brown, Red, White, and Yellow,
Native and newly naturalized citizens
Pressed buttons pushing votes
To change our lives forever
To turn hope into possibility
To say no “to welfare for Wall Street
Without help for Main Street”
To say yes to a future with the promise
To fulfill the American Dream
To bring America back to Democracy
To say no to a past of pain
To say no to indifference and yes to equality
To say no to fear and yes to faith in
Thank you all. God bless America.
Mona Lisa Saloy
The Night American History Elected 1st Black President All
day, my students asked: What were you doing last night Doc
?Last night? November 4, 2008? When American history
exploded Transported more than half a nation Into a frenzy,
into shock, into smiles and more shock? I cried, cried, cried
again, big ballooka tears raining down my face, clogging my
nose, my eyes leaked until Words escaped me, until joy
covered me in a blanket of tears and rain, tears erasing doubt,
tears writing hope across my cheeks, streaked, fear drowning
in tears. I cried for Emmet Till, for Malcolm X, for JFK, for my
grandfather Frank who was born a slave in Sumpter,
Alabama, and walked to New Orleans to be free, but landed in
Laurel, Mississippi; so for most of my life, I thought he’d left
slavery along the Natchez trail, Stealing into swamps by day,
saved by Indians—some Natchez, then Houma by Night,
hopping over alligators and slave catchers, muddy mounds,
and braving thundershowers under palmetto palms. I cried for
Martin Luther King, for Robert Kennedy, for my chocolatefaced Mother who had to explain too many times whose paleolive baby she was keeping when they saw me in tow,
hanging on to her skirts, and breath, stories, and wisdom. Last
night, I cried for all those shoulders, backs, and bridges Barak
Hussein Obama climbed to become the 44th President of the
United States of America. I cried for joy because for the first
time in my life, America, all these smiling faces in Chicago’s
Grant Park, a rainbow in faces, crying joyful rain with me,
rejoicing, realize America is its people, all of its people, ALL of
them, all of us, We, as one nation under God. God bless us
all. Now, pinch me.
© Mona Lisa Saloy
To End: an Afterward
Meaning What: a short essay
of final comments about New
Orleans culture now, adapting
to the adjustment, beating all
the odds, back on the block, a
coming home literally and
Interview or excerpt from two
"Controversies, Connections,
and Coincidences, Part Two,"
featuring Jennifer Reeser,
MonaLisa Saloy, John Jeremiah
Sullivan, and Faulkner.
Or, the soon-to-be-released
inter view with Dayne Sherman
in the December issue of
Louisiana Library Journal.
What it really means . . . .
Or: an alternative
(Creole for something extra)
Cover Art: Richard C. Thomas,
“The Mothers of New Orleans”
Future works
„Sidewalk Songs, Jump-Rope Rhymes,
& Clap-hand Games: Cultural Identity
& Gender in Play” (Folklore); 1/2 done
Bob Kaufman: Black Beat Poet, 1/2
Completed: Mustard & Ketchup: a play
about two friends, 1 Black 1 Jew
Completed: screenplay, “Rockin‟ for a
Risen Savior,” Folklore on ring-shout
worship service in rural Louisiana, in
negotiations with LPB.
Short Fiction + essays + novel in
See you in the Gumbo!
Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy