On Saturday, June 1, our CWPPRA Outreach Coordinator, Jennifer Ritter Guidry, attended the Bayou Culture Collaborative’s Writing on the Bayou workshop at the Terrebonne Parish Library in Gray, LA. Led by Nicholls State University English professor Dr. Michael Martin, the small group of writers shared their background in writing fiction, non-fiction and memoir, poetry and songs. After a discussion of types of writing styles and a brief examination of writing samples, we talked about Louisiana’s landscape and its sensorial aspects, and how to incorporate that in your writing. And then, we wrote about an experience within the Louisiana landscape and read our pieces to the group. Each story captured the essence of the landscape, from one person’s writing nook overlooking the bayou to another’s memory of pulling potatoes and driving the tractor with her father. Here’s Jennifer’s piece.
Louisiana’s landscape is its primary determining factor in all of its development—it drove early peoples to high ground to settle and offered multiple avenues for travel, dictated the types and variety of available food, discouraged European colonists who instead chose to impose control over the environment (New Orleans, anyone?). Landscape allowed for early roads to follow the numerous waterways and determined a mixed system for industry and transport.
The roads today in Lafayette seem to make no sense. The original grid of Vermilionville centered around the church has expanded into a tangled web of roads, intersections, alleys, and absurd traffic. The old joke is that the roads were mapped by a fellow who followed a car as it wandered through the area. In truth, first came the railroad, which avoided traversing the water at all coasts and instead paralleled it. Then came the roads, which had no other alternative than to mirror those riverine twists and turns.
It doesn’t matter where you are in Lafayette, you can always hear the late-night trains blasting through town, whistles at top volume. I grew up near the Vermilion River and as a determinedly introspective teen, my favorite thing to do was to sneak out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night and walk down to the river and watch the mist rising off the water.