Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Lasting Legacy

It has been nearly a decade since I launched Hellicane as a crowdsourced, poetic response to the pain and suffering, the rebuilding and rebirth, connected to Hurricane Katrina.  While new poems are not being added to the site, Hellicane lives on for future generations to learn from and experience.

The site -- with all the poems from scores of poets around the world that are part of it -- has been inducted into the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, a unique project started in 2005 by George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the University of New Orleans, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and other partners.  It uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the stories and digital record of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

I am so proud of all the poets who contributed to Hellicane to know that our creation has found a permanent home connected to such prestigious institutions.

I'm also proud to report that the poem that started it all -- my work,  Is This My Country? -- has been published in a special illustrated format in the Louisiana Anthology/Anthologie Louisianaise at Louisiana Tech University, a Tier 1 national research university located in Ruston, north-central Louisiana.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Orleans: A Second Disaster in the Making?

The founder of Hellicane is now pursuing a PhD. in Public Policy and Sustainability at Walden University. This week in my class, "Elements of Sustainable and Livable Communities," I read a passage in a book called Growing Smarter, edited by Robert Bullard, about New Orleans in these years after Hurricane Katrina. It grabbed my attention in a big way. Here is the passage:

It would be good to hear from some residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast for their perspectives on the above issues.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Night of the Rising Flood

by Nancy Hansen Merbitz

(sung to the tune of "The House of the Rising Sun")

There was a night in New Orleans
there came a rising flood,
with wind and rain, the levies busted
‘fore the night was done.

Those with cars, they got away;
them without were through.
Wait and see what happens – hey,
what else can you do?

The mothers called their children,
they called their babies home;
their fathers brought them to the attic -
then the waters rose.

Tearin through the rafters,
tryin to reach the sky.
Then they’re waiting on the rooftops,
hopin help comes by.

Many died, and many more
had nowhere to go.
Starvin in the Superdome –
what did “Brownie” know?

The Delta of New Orleans used to
shield her from the seas;
then the plunder drove it under
oil refineries.

This beloved city,
full of life and joy
won’t be left to drown in pity,
filthy mud, and oil.

Now it’s four years later,
Still the work goes on,
Raising homes ‘n buildin schools –
Won’t stop until they’re done.

Raising homes ‘n buildin schools,
Won’t stop until we’re done -
And God, we know we’re One.


Note from the author: I wrote this while riding home recently on "The City of New Orleans" train to Chicago, after a visit to New Orleans ... I haven't written a poem in decades, and this was as if an inspiration had come over me. I think it was the spirit of the city. This month I'm going to perform it (vocals and piano, with friends on guitar and bass) in Pontiac (my town).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

In memory of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I offer this online radio interview I did (as my alter ego PodPoet) with BlogTalk Radio founder and CEO Alan Levy about Hellicane, the poetry project housed on this site which I launched during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in 2005. My interview was recorded and aired one year after Katrina struck, and you will hear me in the last 1/3 of the program. I talk about the background of the Hellicane project and recite several excellent poems from the collection.

(This picture is by Hurricane Katrina survivor Felicia Washington, from the Katrina's Angels Web site.)