Heart of Louisiana: Poetry
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana’s new poet Laureate gets inspiration from the people, places and stormy weather of the bayou state. Alison Pelegrin, a published poet and writer-in-residence at Southeastern Louisiana University, now has the job of promoting poetry.
“I like to walk around. I like to pay attention to my surroundings and just see what’s going on,” said Allison Pelegrin.
In her frequent walks along the Tammany Trace, Alison Pelegrin is keenly aware of her surroundings.
“I’m walking through the world as a citizen, looking at other people, seeing things I like, seeing things I don’t like, and hearing people talk and all those things kind of brew together, maybe combined with something that I have on my mind or something that I’ve read and all of that kind of brews inside of me to make a poem,” Pelegrin said.
This college English teacher and poet says she has been writing since she was a young girl. The interest in poetry came much later.
“I wrote poetry in high school sometimes, and it was like the typical, my feelings, you know. Pouring out onto the page, and it wasn’t until college that I started taking poetry seriously,” Pelegrin said.
Pelegrin has published several books of poetry. Many of her poems focus on Louisiana, the personality of its people and its challenges
“Coasting into my old world to help mom pack up the house. She can’t sell for nothing rimmed as it is with trash and canals threatening to overflow,” Pelegrin said.
In one poem, she writes about growing up on the west bank in Gretna.
“Anytime I’d hit the twang, mom got angry because I was letting my Gretna show. She threatened with a face slap or taste of soap, and I circled on a red bike just out of reach,” Pelegrin said.
Like so many of us, I’m assuming you went through Katrina. Yeah. You’ve written about that and other storms and floods and the aftermaths of that. Why those topics?
“You know how everybody was calling people and getting numbers from contractors and insurance, and I had a notebook where I was keeping all that stuff. That’s what was my first Katrina poem. It was, called Ode to Contractors, possessing various levels of expertise, and it began as that list I was keeping of things undone, and it ended up being about that experience which was heartbreaking, but also you kind of had to laugh about it,” Pelegrin said.
She now has a unique opportunity to spread her love of poetry. Pelegrin has been selected as Louisiana’s poet laureate.
“It’s such an honor, especially for me because this state is so important to me as a setting and context and inspiration for my work,” Pelegrin said.
In her poem, Our Lady of the FLlood, Pelegrin says she was inspired by a photo of a couple walking in floodwater floating a yard statue of Mary in a boat.
“Some saints are untouchable behind glass, but you ride in open boats with mildew on the edges of your gown,” Pelegrin said.
If you live in Louisiana, the words hit home. They are heartfelt and gritty, a reflection of who we are and how we act with a little sass and a lot of compassion.
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