It is my pleasure to welcome Southern Poet and Writer, Nita Risher McGlawn, to Southern Creatives this week.
In addition to the WONDERFUL guest post she created for this week, she also graciously shared one of her poems “New Orleans’ Ambience”.
Southerners have a unique gift with the ability to recognize and appreciate a sense of place and character. We share fond memories of scorching heat, porch swings, lightning bugs, and oscillating fans. Heck, we enjoy recollecting about shelling peas.
Southerners get the “big picture.” What is it about a certain place that makes it so unique? A Southerner can pinpoint it.
Born and raised a Southerner, I never lived anywhere else until I moved overseas. Was it the Southerner or the artistic bent in me that made me hone in on the sense of place in Sumatra…in Jakarta…in Muscat, Oman? Perhaps, it was an amalgam of both.
In my poetry, I try to convey that sense of place, through suggestion. Weather, food, sounds, music, a way of speech…all of these things help shape verbal image and create a cerebral place.
My poems about Louisiana almost wrote themselves. As a young bride in Buras, Louisiana, I immediately started soaking up the sense of place. Buras, located south of New Orleans, was the jumping off place if you ever saw it (unless you traveled just a bit further south and found muddy, murky Venice). Despite that, I have fond memories of watching big sea-faring tankers glide by, silently, above the Mississippi River levee.
I said ABOVE; we lived below sea level. Ship horns awakened me at night; I dreaded being drowned when a wayward vessel broke the levee. Thankfully, Ol’ Man River never took me out to sea in my nightgown. My obsessive fears resurfaced during Katrina.
In the mid-seventies, I fell in love with New Orleans; my cooking reflects it. For a few years, we lived right off Canal Boulevard; a vignette of New Orleans citizenry paraded each day. I rode the bus down Canal Boulevard, the cemeteries and on to Canal Street to eat lunch with my husband at the A & G Cafeteria (fondly called the Ag and Gag). “Serve you dah-lin?” Hair-netted ladies deftly spooned up red beans and rice, urging diners down the line.
I learned that the name Anthony was pronounced “Ant-nee.” I can’t pronounce it any other way now. Neighbors, Carl and Peggy, took us to our first Mardi Gras parade and turned us into bead addicts. Peggy showed me how to make stuffed mirliton and introduced me to red gravy; I survived the infamous May 3, 1978 flood. Pure magic New Orleans was; my children are natives. We moved across the lake to sleepy Mandeville due to cheaper real estate. We bought a season’s pass to the 1984 Worlds’ Fair and entertained ourselves there many a summer’s evening.
Fate and Gulf Oil moved us to Acadiana, so very different from New Orleans. At first, I thought I would die; but formed some of the dearest friendships ever. The Cajun culture eventually permeated its way into my psyche. I still feel the humidity and watch the Spanish moss wave among the branches. I learned to make a decent roux.
It’s these memories that nudged me to write my poems about Louisiana. I wrote “It’s Called Acadiana” first. Then ironically, on a trip back to New Orleans, I penned “New Orleans’ Ambiance” while sitting in a car right off St. Charles Avenue. “Mardi Gras Madness” came later, as well as “Christmas in Acadiana.”
While in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Southern muse struck again and I came up with the idea of A BAMA PRIMER. After all, it’s my alma mater.
A few years ago, my husband, older son, and I visited N’Awlins. My son looked me in the face and smiled, “Mama, we’re home.”
I hope that you find something likeable in my Southern poems. I hope to write more as the muse inspires. Please visit www.nitamcglawn.com and www.bamaprimer.com to see my poems and book. Drop me a line. I would love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Beignets and coffee…streetcars and boats,
Mardi Gras madness…calliope notes,
Bohemian artists…street mimes and jugglers,
Stories of river ghosts, pirates and smugglers,
Soulful music from a street corner horn,
The fact that this is where jazz was first born,
Fresh produce and trinkets from FrenchMarket vendors,
Shotguns, camelbacks, St. Charles Avenue splendors,
Wrought iron and gingerbread, houses so quaint,
Sports in the Superdome…pulling for the Saints,
Audubon Zoo…a white tiger and ‘gators,
“Where y’at” – NinthWarders, secondline paraders,
Creole dishes…food “extraordinare,”
Charming people you can’t match anywhere,
Even the weather – quite balmy and hot –
Make New Orleans “The City That Care Forgot!”©Nita RisherMcGlawn 1989
Many, many thanks to Nita for being my guest this week. I so very much enjoyed reading her guest post and her wonderful poem.