Amazing New Orleans

An oil tanker on the MS River, viewed from the levee south of the Lower Ninth Ward. The port of New Orleans is the busiest in North America by volume, and a major oil and gas hub.

I spent an unforgettable week in New Orleans that involved seeing the work Environmental Defense Fund is doing to restore coastal wetlands and cypress forests that once sheltered the city from storms. I met local colleagues, including Tracy Nelson and John Taylor from the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development. This group is doing amazing work to bring food security to the neighborhood, which lacks a grocery store, and to rebuild the community, which was devastated by Katrina. And we saw some of the beautiful, eco-friendly homes Brad Pitt’s Make It Right organization has built.

At Bayou Bienvenue just north of the Lower Ninth Ward. This area of open water was once a cypress-tupelo swamp with the power to absorb the brunt of a storm surge. It should look like this, and hopefully someday it will again.

I also met the incredible New Orleans poets Megan Burns and Dave Brinks, who generously hosted me at their 17 Poets! reading series and took a video. Expat New Orleanians kept telling me during this trip that they had to leave the city and its seductive, narcotic pull to get anything done in their lives, but Megan and Dave disprove this — their Trembling Pillow Press has published nine books and just hosted its first book contest, judged by Bernadette Mayer. And they edit two literary journals and a monthly periodical between them, all while raising three children, writing their own books, and running a landmark bar in the French Quarter.

I did give in to the city’s pull on the last day, though, when I wandered the French Quarter drinking absinthe with CA Conrad, Maggie Zurawski and Jack the maltese, who stopped through on their Southern Poetry Tour. So many gifts in one week, even the fire ant attack in Louis Armstrong park couldn’t bring us down.


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