Artist & Advocate: Mona Lisa Saloy

Mona Lisa Saloy is an author, folklorist, educator, and scholar, and she was recently named the 2021-2023 Louisiana Poet Laureate.

Q:  Please describe your work and the medium/media you use. Why do you make this type of art? 

A:  As an author, I write in multiple genres from essays to plays and screenplays, but I’m more known as a poet, the form in which I’ve been published over the longest time. I write to honor my ancestors—familial + otherwise, their heart-wrenching while encouraging proverbs and tales—and my community: I write to speak for those who can’t or don’t tell their stories.

Q:  What is most striking or inspirational to you about the wetland landscape?   

A:  The wetland landscape is purely southern beauty, floral, full of creatures, moist, and hauntingly precious, a reminder of beginnings and endings all at once.  

Q:  In what ways has the Louisiana wetland landscape changed in your lifetime? 

A:  In my lifetime, the Louisiana wetlands are under attack by climate change, by automation of boundaries such as draining, dredging, channelization, diking, and of course by human pollution.

Q: Why is it important to you to create art about Louisiana wetlands? 

A:  The Louisiana wetlands landscape is part of our DNA, our cultural foundation, our food source, our recreation as well.

Q:  In your opinion why is coastal restoration in Louisiana is important? For folks out of state, why is  Louisiana’s coastal restoration work important for the nation? 

A: Louisiana coastal restoration is essential because it is eroding due to all stated above; if it continues to disappear, so will we.

Q: How does your art challenge existing barriers and assumptions about our environmental crisis? 

A: It is my hope that in essays or verse, my work encourages awareness, appreciation, and salvaging our wetlands.

Q:  Where can people view your work (displayed in galleries or links to websites)? 

My articles and poems are published in anthologies, journals, websites, blogs. My first two books Red Beans & Ricely Yours, Poems (2005)  + Second Line Home, New Orleans Poems, are available at bookstores in your area. 

Artist Bio:
Mona Lisa Saloy is an author, folklorist, educator, and scholar, and she was recently named the 2021-2023 Louisiana Poet Laureate. She is an award-winning author of contemporary Creole culture in poems about Black New Orleans before and after Katrina. In addition, she has worked to document sidewalk songs, jump-rope rhymes, and clap-hand games to discuss the importance of play. According to Saloy, “The Louisiana wetlands landscape is part of our DNA, our cultural foundation, our food source, our recreation as well.” You can read more from our interview with Mona Lisa at https://cwppra.wordpress.com/2021/11/04/artist-advocate-mona-lisa-saloy/!​

Want to hear more from Mona Lisa Saloy? She’s a featured speaker at the Water in Poetry event (11/17/21, Sliman Theatre, 6PM) hosted in partnership with Smithsonian Water/Ways & CWPPRA’s “I Remember…” Exhibit on display at the Bayou Teche Museum in New Iberia, LA. This program is funded under a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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