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State Poet Laureate Touts Young Parish PoetsP

Photograph: Louisiana poet laureate Mona Lisa Saloy is surrounded by poetry workshop participants Amia Ford, Ayaua Ford, Grace Henry-Tarrant and Elijah Pierre Ford. The young workshop participants concluded their writing adventure at the Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)


Editor/Consulting Writer

There’s no reason to believe that St. Landry Parish can’t produce a colony of talented young writers, says Louisiana poet laureate Mona Lisa Saloy.

That was evident last week, Saloy said, as she concluded a one-day workshop in which school-age youths organized poetic stanzas and imagery during the event sponsored by the Opelousas museum and interpretive center and the city’s library.

Saloy said during a St. Landry Now interview said the Opelousas project and workshop included five prospective poets who spent a day writing and editing their work which was read during a presentation ceremony at the museum.

“The writers we had here produced some beautiful poems. They did a lot of writing. What we are trying to do right now is encourage people to read, write and enjoy poetry,” Saloy added.

Saloy said poetic efforts by the Opelousas participants were refreshing, since they were being asked to provide spontaneous creativity almost without preparation.

“You know, I think they did wonderful. Think about having to write in their situation with someone they had never met before. It’s quite a challenge when you are asked to write poetry. I think they proved to be most creative,” Saloy said.

Angela Zachery, Opelousas Museum director, said the poets began writing “on the spot” during a morning session. Then after a lunch break, the writers were placed back to relocate within themselves, editing and re-editing their poetry which had to be ready for the afternoon performances at the museum.

Several of the one-day poets spoke about their experiences at the workshop.

One girl said she learned that poetry doesn’t always include rhyme schemes. Another said she learned that poetic expression evolves when you are able to feel the needed and appropriate words and then incorporate those thoughts into a poem.

“It’s all about expressing yourself. I think people don’t express themselves enough,” said another young girl.

Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor said the workshop, funding by a grant obtained by the museum, said young writers like those who attended the workshop, were being encouraged “to come out of their shells and feel and share their emotions” with their writing.

Saloy shared portions of her life story with those who gathered for the presentations.

Much of her inspiration as a writer and poet came from the oral histories and front porch stories that she heard from relatives.

“I encourage all of you to go out and tell your story. Document your story and speak for your generation,” Saloy said.

Saloy said one of her goals as poet laureate is to help regenerate interest in state schools.

This can also be done at the post-high school level, said Saloy, through community poetry workshops. “I would like to hire young writers in order to help do that kind of work and then perhaps have collaborative readings at libraries,” she said.