Words for Terri Sue: Wrap-up and photos

After the show: Nick Fox, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Terri Shrum, Tad Bartlett, Kelly Harris, Nicholas Mainieri, and April Blevins Pejic. Photo by L. Kasimu Harris.

After the show: Nick Fox, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Terri Shrum, Tad Bartlett, Kelly Harris, Nicholas Mainieri, and April Blevins Pejic. Photo by L. Kasimu Harris.

Peauxdunque shared a beautiful evening of love and generosity and art (so much wonderful art) with its founding member, Terri Sue Shrum, and with a large cross-section of the New Orleans writing and reading community on August 30, at Three Keys at the Ace Hotel. The event was our “Words for Terri Sue” benefit reading, to raise funds for Terri’s out-of-pocket cancer treatment expenses, and featured DJ’ing by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania); the New Orleans premier of Gian Smith‘s award-winning short film, “The Adulterer”; brilliant, touching, thought-provoking, and energetic readings by best-selling and award-winning writers M.O. Walsh, Kelly Harris, Bill Loehfelm, Nicholas Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin; with the emcee duties handled with great spirit and skill by Nick Fox. The stage was also graced by Terri herself, with a tribute to all those who came out to make the night possible. We raised approximately $2,000 on the night, bringing our total fundraising for Terri over $11,000 in the past three months! And we’re not done, yet. Please visit our gofundme page for Terri, and keep your eye out for another fundraising effort in conjunction with the Words & Music Conference in November.

If you couldn’t make it (and even if you did), here’s a slideshow of photos taken by Peauxdunquian writer/photographer/renaissance-man, L. Kasimu Harris:

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Words for Terri Sue: Featuring Terri herself!

Terri side by sideTomorrow night, August 30, at Three Keys (Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet, 7 to 9 p.m.)! We’ll have music by DJ Sep, emcee’ing by Nick Fox, and readings by a star-studded writer cast of M.O. WalshKelly Harris-DeBerryBill LoehfelmGian SmithNicholas Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin. And now I can announce it officially that Terri Sue Shrum will be with us, too! She made a flight down from Atlanta, where she’s been undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and will join us for the benefit reading as we raise funds to assist with her out-of-pocket treatment expenses. Come early, stay late, and donate whatever you can. She’s a fantastic writer and fantastic friend, and tomorrow will be a good night. Three Keys asks that people RSVP here if they’re thinking of coming, so click that link and come join us!

Words for Terri Sue: Meet the writers, part 5

This Tuesday, August 30, a special coming together of the writing tribes (and those who love them, or at least dig them) will occur at Three Keys (at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, NOLA), as six best-selling and award-winning writers will present work at a benefit reading for Peauxdunque founding member Terri Sue Shrum. In May, Terri was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, Terri has begun chemotherapy treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and writers nationwide have come together to help with an active fund-raising campaign to help Terri with her out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses. From 7 to 9 p.m. on August 30, we’ll continue that, with tunes spun by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania) and an evening emcee’d by Nick Fox. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted at the door and throughout the evening; RSVP here.

Our fifth featured writer is Kelly Harris-DeBerry, poet, teacher, Artrepreneur, and founder of BrassyBrown.com. Most recently, her multi-media poetic essay, “Dear Naomi (and Black Girls Everywhere),” received national attention when it attracted more than 3,000 views. Kelly has poems in the current issue of Torch literary magazine and a podcast on About Place Journal‘s website on Congo Square: Sustaining the Sacred Post-Katrina. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Cave Canem. Kelly’s performance background and MFA degree in creative writing/arts therapy places her on the stage and page. Check her out next month at the Black Arts Movement Conference at Dillard University. Kelly will be joined onstage on August 30 by M.O. WalshBill LoehfelmGian SmithNick Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin.

Kelly Harris-D

Words for Terri Sue: Meet the writers, part 1

In one week, on August 30, a special coming together of the writing tribes (and those who love them, or at least dig them) will occur at Three Keys (at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, NOLA), as six best-selling and award-winning writers will present work at a benefit reading for Peauxdunque founding member Terri Sue Shrum. In May, Terri was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, Terri has begun chemotherapy treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and writers nationwide have come together to help with an active fund-raising campaign to help Terri with her out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses. From 7 to 9 p.m. on August 30, we’ll continue that, with tunes spun by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania) and an evening emcee’d by Nick Fox. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted at the door and throughout the evening; RSVP here.

The first of our six featured readers is Nicholas Mainieri. His debut novel, The Infinite, will be published by Harper Perennial in November of 2016. Born in Miami, Florida, Nicholas has also lived in Colorado and Indiana. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, he earned his MFA from the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. His short stories have appeared in the Southern Review, the Southern Humanities Review, and Salamander, among other literary magazines. He currently teaches writing and literature at Nicholls State University. He resides in New Orleans with his wife and son. Nick will be joined at Words for Terri Sue by writers M.O. Walsh, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Francisco Smith, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin.

Nicholas Manieri

Nicholas Mainieri

 

Catching up with Peauxdunque: News on Zach, Maurice, Cassie, Nordette, and Tad, plus Words for Terri Sue

It’s been far too long since we last updated with goings-on in the land of Peauxdunque, and it’s been a long, busy summer. Even though I’m sure to leave something off, here’s at least a sample of all the news from our corner of Writer-Land:

Zach Bartlett’s book, Northern Dandy, has been released, and an official release party will be held on August 16, at Mimi’s in the Marigny (2601 Royal Street, New Orleans). Northern Dandy collects Zach’s humorous short prose and verse, originally performed with the popular reading series Esoterotica in New Orleans and his one-man stage show as part of 2015’s FringePVD in Rhode Island. His body of bawdy work ranges from multiple-choice misadventures and passive-aggressive etiquette advice to frisky formal poetry experiments, all undertaken with tongue firmly in cheek. Find out more about the release party here.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin has been busy this summer polishing his novel-in-progress. He also attended the VONA Workshop as a fellow in June, and is currently in Vermont on a “waiter-ship” at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Also, Maurice was invited to read his piece, “Grandma’s Books,” at the Bring Your Own storytelling series, which was captured and broadcast by WWNO. Finally, Maurice’s craft piece, “Stanislavski in the Ghetto,” about inhabiting characters and modulating dialect, was published by AGNI.

Cassie Pruyn, always busy with her Bayou St. John historical documentation series over at NolaVie, has also had a few more poems published. CutBank recently published three of Cassie’s poems, “Talk,” “The Week Before Christmas,” and “The Last Time I Saw Her.” Beautiful work, which you must go read.

Nordette Adams has also been busy on the poetry front, with her incredibly moving poem, “digital anthropologists find our hashtags,” published by Rattle. Written in the immediate wake of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, Nordette’s poem captures the sorrow and the struggle against resignation that this never-ending tragedy cycle engenders.

Tad Bartlett‘s novella, Marchers’ Season, was the subject of an interview by Susan Larson on WWNO’s The Reading Life. Also, Tad’s short story, “Riding in Cars at Night,” has been picked up by Eunoia Review, and is slated to run in late August. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for a link when it goes live.

Finally, as many of you know, founding Peauxdunquian Terri Sue Shrum has been diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer. She is undergoing treatment at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and we are running a GoFundMe effort to help Terri cover her extensive out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses; there are a number of our writing friends who have donated signed copies of books as donation incentives, and we encourage you to go check it out (and then go back again as many times as you can–we’re closing in on $8,000 raised for Terri). Also, on August 30, 2016 (7-9 p.m.), we are hosting “Words for Terri Sue,” a benefit reading at the 3 Keys at the Ace Hotel, featuring readings by M.O. Walsh, Bill Loehfelm, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Nick Mainieri, Gian Francisco Smith, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Admission will be free, but donations will be accepted at all amounts, with a minimum suggested donation of $10. More details will be posted soon!

Upcoming literary events, featuring Maurice!

Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin will be featured with others at three readings in the next two weeks.

First up, this Thursday, March 21, Maurice will be reading fiction at the UNO Gold Room at Handsome Willie’s, 218 South Robertson Street, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Also reading at the Gold Room will be Stephanie Doyle (fiction), Laura McKnight (non-fiction), and Ben Sines (poetry). Free admission.

Maurice will next be reading on Friday, March 22, at the Melanated Writers Collective’s Literary Jook Joint, at the M. Francis Gallery, 604 Julia Street, beginning at 8 p.m. Maurice will be part of a stellar line-up, including Yeah You Write alums Kelly Harris DeBerry and Gian Smith, and fellow Melanated Writers Dr. Gee Love and Mary Webb. $15 admission for a great night of words, food and drinks included ($10 with student ID), in conjunction with the Tennessee Williams Festival.

Finally, Maurice will be reading at the next installment of the 17 Poets! series on Thursday, March 28, with Katarina Boudreaux. The series occurs weekly at the Gold Mine Saloon, at 701 Dauphine Street, with readings beginning at 8 p.m.

New Orleans word scene getting noticed

Undeniably, the New Orleans word world is a vital part of our culture, contributing to the rebirth of a great American city and adding its flavor to a national literary mix. Peauxdunque strives to be a dynamic part of that role, from our support and encouragement of our member writers to our production of the Yeah You Write reading series. New Orleans poet Kelly Harris recently published an excellent post to the Poets & Writers blog on the many doings in the New Orleans literary universe, including our own.

An inextricably intertwined adjunct of the New Orleans writing world is the innovative and burgeoning filmmaking scene here. Peauxdunque is lucky to count two of the best filmmakers in New Orleans among our ranks, Amy Serrano and Helen Krieger. At the recently concluded New Orleans Film Festival, Helen‘s award-winning feature film, Flood Streets, garnered critical and popular raves, and was chosen for the premier encore screening slot at the end of the festival.

Last week’s Words and Music Conference, hosted by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society and with the guiding hand of Peauxdunque’s Amy Serrano in her role as Chairperson of the Pan American Connections Committee, brought international human rights advocate and former Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission Armando Valladares to provide a keynote speech on the power of writers and words to be the vanguard in the fight against global oppression and inequity. Words and Music also brought in national literary lights Nilo Cruz, Justin Torres, Robert Olen Butler, Oscar Hijuelos, Andrew Lam, Elise Blackwell, Roy Blount, Jr., Tom Carson, and Paula McLain, along with our own New Orleans greats, John Biguenet, Rodger Kamenetz, James NolanMoira Crone, and others. Joined by a faculty of nationally prominent agents and publishers ranging from Bix Six publishers through the agile and innovative crop of new generation publishers, brilliant discussions and readings ensued, probing the current and future states of writing, storytelling, and publishing. New Orleans literary crusader Mark Folse captured the vibe well in his posts on Odd Words and on the nola.com NOLA Vie report.

As covered in Mark’s reports, the Peauxdunque gang was glad to play a part in Words and Music. Terri Stoor, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, J.Ed. Marston, and Tad Bartlett presented poetry, fiction, and essays on the conference theme during the Wednesday afternoon session in the Cabildo. Also, Terri Stoor was the winner of the gold medal in the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition’s short story category, while Maurice Carlos Ruffin was a finalist in the short story category and Tad Bartlett and J.Ed. Marston were semi-finalists in that category. In the novel category, Sabrina Canfield had a manuscript on the long list for finalists, and Tad and J.Ed. had a co-authored manuscript on the long list for finalists. In the novel-in-progress cateogry, Sabrina had a manuscript make the short list for finalists. In the essay category, Terri was the second runner-up, and Sabrina had an essay on the short list for finalists. Tad and J.Ed. each also had poems make the finalist list in the poetry category. In addition, a gang of Peauxdunquians volunteered to help staff several conference events, including Bryan Block, Dana Glass, Susan Kagan, Emilie Staat, Sabrina Canfield, Janis Turk, and Helen Krieger.

Quick Peauxcrunque recap

There will be a proper debriefing and a full posting of gratitude and wonderment in the next few days, complete with the brilliant pictures taken by our many friends last night, but for now these quick thoughts on Yeah, You Write 

Terri spun golden morphine threads; and Kelly made us all dance uncontrollably and exclaim involuntarily and think unfetteredly; and Bill put us right there on a Staten Island street at four in the morning, where we were angry at the audacity of evil; and Amanda hung us in a tree, afraid of a washing machine, perfectly one with tornado-green clouds; and Gian made us the poets with him, and us of this city with him, and he created this “us” out of this crowd of “I”s; and then Mat “Poison in My Cock” Johnson — well, what more can you say — except there was joy and fear and intensity of a level even higher than any all night when Mat took the stage.

And then there was excellent Mr. Nick Fox, an emcee like no other (who you must employ for your next show, whatever it is, because you simply will not believe how he turns a mere event into a Spectacle)! And, of course, without DJ Seppe spinning the tunes before and during and after the everything, it could have been just another reading in just another room.

But this wasn’t just another room. This was Tipitina’s, the Temple of ‘Fess. We had writers on stage at Tipitina’s, goddamnit, and it felt right and it felt good. Thank you, Tip’s. Thank you, Terri and Kelly and Bill and Amanda and Gian and Mat. Thank you, Faulkner House Books for being there to sell our performers’ books. Thank you, Emilie Staat for making it all happen.

And that was the brief recap.

Yeah, You Write! Get PeauxCrunque with Peauxdunque …

Peauxdunque is one day away from the first Yeah, You Write event, a literary concert and DJ dance party (ya’ heard?) at Tipitina’s on October 13th! Doors open at 7 p.m. and show starts at 7:30. New Orleans poet and Emcee-extraordinaire Nick Fox will be presiding. Tickets are available online and are already starting to go; get yours now! Want to hear more about Yeah, You Write? Listen to this interview of Peauxdunquian Emilie Staat and featured performer Amanda Boyden by WYLD’s Hal Clark.

Our featured performers have been busy in the lead-up to Yeah, You Write, sharing their insights on writing and living in interviews by Peauxdunquians Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Emilie Staat, and Tad Bartlett. Check out the interviews with Mat Johnson, Amanda Boyden, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, and Terri Stoor, then get ready for some great, one-of-a-kind wordage and a Peaux-Funquey dance party at Tip’s, tomorrow!

PWA Interviews Kelly Harris-DeBerry

Poet Kelly Harris-DeBerry will be reading from her work at the Yeah, You Write literary concert at Tipitina’s on October 13th. Kelly and Peauxdunquian Tad Bartlett shared an email exchange over the weekend about the power of poetry and the meaning of “literary activism”:

Tad: Kelly, you are known around New Orleans as not just a poet, but also as a “literary activist.” Assuming you consider that a fair descriptor, what does it mean to you to be a “literary activist”?

Kelly: I don’t know what people mean when they use the phrase literary activist. I hope it means I’m a good trouble-maker. I care about how people are cared for, especially when it comes to literacy and the literary arts. I’m involved in two organizations whose work is about service to both children and women in this city as it relates to literacy and literary equality.

I work in the adult literacy field. Each day I see how illiteracy affects an individual’s ability to fully participate as a citizen in society. After Katrina an alarming number of residents could not get the assistance they needed because they couldn’t read or read well enough to understand the forms. During the BP Oil Spill, The Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans was hired to take BP claim forms and convert them into plain language. Again, people couldn’t get services due to them because of literacy and language barriers.

Two things concern me greatly about literacy in New Orleans: 1) I believe literacy is a justice issue. It’s always been a justice issue. If Black folks didn’t know how to read and interpret U.S. laws, we’d still be in courts fighting Jim Crow. The current language on ballots and in proposed legislation is becoming so purposely complex that many people may not understand how to vote. 2) Each day it becomes clearer that much of adult education is about getting learners to achieve specific benchmarks, but we rarely get an adult learner or, let’s say a GED graduate, to the pleasure of reading. I want to take GED graduates on field trips to local bookstores and libraries to make reading applicable in daily life beyond passing a test or applying for a job.

TB: So it sounds like you have taken way more on your plate than what is commonly perceived to be the typical job description of “poet”?

KH: I am interested in how poetry can function in public places beyond bars and traditional readings. Too often writers are reading to the choir. The other day a woman came up to me in the grocery store and said, “Aren’t you that poetry lady?” There’s a certain gratification in being recognized by a non-writer. There’s a special relationship in New Orleans, it seems, between community and artists. Many of the artists in New Orleans themselves are an extension of the community. I don’t sense that artists here seek to dictate what art is or its function. Go to the French Quarter and people are artists because they say so (for better or worse).

Poems and Pink Ribbons [tb: a workshop and reading series for breast cancer patients, survivors and loved ones, presented by the Literary Lab with a final reading and celebration on October 22 at 2372 St. Claude Avenue] was in my heart for about four years. I just sat on it. The combination of having a mother who survived breast cancer, and a mother-in-law who didn’t, provoke me to want to honor them with service. Everybody wears pins and walks, but I wanted to do something more impactful, hence Poems & Pink Ribbons. Different poets around the city have volunteered their time. The majority of the participants probably wouldn’t have called themselves “poet” prior to the workshop. They’ve become more organized, more serious poets as the weeks have gone by. One lady even has a binder and she organized her binder into class notes, poem hand outs and poems that she’s been writing. Poems & Pink Ribbons has an engine of its own now and I am just along for the ride.

Another event that is drawing interest from beyond the universe of writers is “Daughters of Domestics: Poets & Academics Respond to ‘The Help’.” [tb: a response to “The Help” by poets and academics, on October 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Xaview University Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion at 1 Drexel Drive]. It started from a poem I was writing about my own mother, who at various times in the late 80s and 90s cleaned homes for white owners. My mother turned 60 this year and for some reason it made me go public in my poetry about my mother’s cleaning days. Five months later “The Help” was released in theatres.

TB: What responsibility do you think that writers have beyond the mere expression of an idea or the telling of a story?

KH: I can’t say what other writers should be responsible for. I can only say I feel a responsibility to write well and with care about everything. A janitor approached me after a reading and said, “I don’t like poetry, but I like your stuff,” and I asked him why he didn’t like poetry, and his answer suggested that he didn’t know poetry could include him. I suggested some books and poets for him to read; I hope if I ever run into him again, his views on poetry will have changed.

I’m told my great-grandmother wanted to be a poet. I never met her. Apparently her ability to recite poems to her children in her living room and in church was electric. She was laughed at in her community and scolded about staying in her place. So I do kind of feel this responsibility to be true to the people and things that have impacted my life.

TB: Turning to your poetic work, I find it interesting how you are able to use the lens of uniquely New Orleans culture to create sharp focus on more general cultural phenomena; for example, in your poem “Michael’s Second Line,” which explores the greater cultural tribute to Michael Jackson upon his death through the very specific New Orleans death ritual of the second line. Or maybe it’s the other way around, using Michael Jackson as the lens through which to focus on New Orleans. Which way does it go, and is that a familiar theme in your work? [a clip from the second line that inspired “Michael’s Second Line”]

KH: Like photographers, I think poets should use a wide range of lenses to capture different angles and depth in their work. The poem functions as a New Orleans lens. The MJ second line closed the gap between icon and fan. MJ, this larger than life person, became a marcher, strutter in the line. There was some controversy about having a second line for Michael Jackson because he’s not a N.O. musician and because of the molestation controversy. However, the second line is about burying and blessing the hurt, The people are the judges; they deem who’s worthy of the ritual. It was fascinating that this larger than life person becomes everyday people – everyday New Orleans, if only for a moment.

I’m from the Mid-West—Cleveland, OH.  Many of my poems reflect blue collar ideals. I must admit moving South has sharpened my sense of place and people in my work.

TB: Another of your poems, “A Pissed Off Bird,” gives voice to an avian spokes-bird with a long list of grievances about the ruin the human race has made of birds’ initial deal with God. It swerves from acerbic humor to a lush imagining of a bird’s uninterrupted world, to dead-on social commentary. Is this a hard balance to strike, to keep the pace in a poem, to address serious social issues, and at the same time avoid any semblance of preachiness?

KH: A local music writer once said, a good trumpeter resists playing every note and trick he knows. Many singers ruin the National Anthem because they can’t resist oversinging. Ever felt like you just heard an audition instead of the sacred song? I think poets have to resist making junk drawers out of poems. It’s hard to create balance in life and poetry. And sometimes you just have to resist saying yes to everything both in life and in the poem. I’m learning that less is definitely more. It’s all about discipline.

I wrote that poem during the BP Oil Spill.  I remember being in a certain part of town and feeling as if I had walked into a gas station. You know I never wrote an ecology-themed poem until moving to New Orleans.

TB: So, why poetry?

KH: I wish I had some fascinating story about growing up around books or having parents who were educators or getting a book I couldn’t put down, but neither is the case. The short-story is: I didn’t grow up knowing a lot about poetry. As a child, I recited Easter speeches in church. I wrote my first poem in 6th grade. It was called, “Be a Leader not a Follower”; I guess even then I was grappling with social issues. I showed it to my father.  He said, You know that’s a poem. That’s how I knew I’d written my first poem. Then, I had no concept of being a poet. Poets aren’t invited to Career Day. I wanted to be a pediatrician until high school, until I introduced a poet named Mwatabu Okantah at a school assembly in ninth grade. I was hooked and quickly learned that having notebooks of poems was no fluke. I learned I couldn’t live without making poems. Something kept drawing me to the page, catching my eye, pulling my ear. Next thing I knew, whoa, I’m a poet.

TB: What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received or given?

KH: Wayne Brown, a Jamaican poet, told me,  “Write beyond the epiphany.”

Many thanks to Kelly for this fascinating discussion. We look forward to hearing her work at Yeah, You Write, at Tipitina’s Uptown on October 13th.