Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack B. Bedell shared some of his poems from the recently published No Brother, This Storm with us Wednesday night as well as some older poems and new ones that still have that “new poem smell.”
He grew up in southern Louisiana and mentioned that there are some terms in his poems that we of a more northern latitude may not know but that he’d enjoy teaching us about, like chix bun, crapaud, ouaouaron (a type of roll made with egg yolk, toad, and bullfrog, respectively).
Bedell explained he wanted to write about the devastation of hurricanes and coastal erosion in Louisiana for No Brother, This Storm but lost his mother in the middle of writing and then later his father towards the end.
His writing changed course from the environment to family, and the words wanted to impart that even though you and the environment are experiencing loss, you will both still find your way.
His book begins with “Remnant,” a poem Bedell shared about a dream of his mother making those chix buns. He said his dreams about his mother are visits, and he wakes up from them feeling as though he had a good conversation with her. His dreams of his father are a different story—he dreams his father is testing him.
His poetry is inspired by his experiences. “Breakwater,” tells of how discarded Christmas trees get a second chance at life by heading off coastal erosion by creating landmass. “All of Us and None” gives us an intimate look into Bedell’s father’s prayers said aloud.
“Transposition” is a glimpse into his son’s stress-ridden math homework. He has illuminated these scenes from his life and shares them with us as though they are fresh chix buns saying he knows he makes funny faces while reading because he can notice his mistakes. He also owns up to the fact that poems lie because they aren’t long enough to tell the whole truth.
His new poem “Gulf Waves” tells of his young daughter writing the names of those she loves in the sand, only to have the names washed away before she’s written them all. Sounds sweet sure, but he let us know she actually refused to write her brother’s name.