April is National Poetry Month, and KnowLA will be highlighting digital encyclopedia entries about poets and poetry. Louisiana abounds in wordsmiths who have crafted verse both in and about a state that never ceases to inspire.
Though the New England-based poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow never set foot in Louisiana, his epic 1847 poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie has played a strong role in shaping the popular image of Cajuns. This story of a refugee and her lover who are separated when they are banished into exile became symbols of the le grand dérangement, the diaspora of Acadians from what is now Nova Scotia between 1755 and 1763.
African American poet, essayist and author Arna Wendell Bontemps was born in Alexandria in 1902. A leading literary figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Bontemps won two Pushkin Prizes for Poetry and the Crisis Poetry Prize.
Everette Maddox was a poet who wrote tender and biting lines that simultaneously expressed a deep love of life, a disdain for the artificial and a whimsical awareness of the ironies and inconsistencies of the human condition. Maddox spent the most productive years of his career in New Orleans, where he founded a weekly poetry reading in 1979 that continues to this day.
KnowLA also contains biographical profiles of two of Louisiana’s past poets laureate, Darrell Bourque and Julie Kane. We invite you to explore KnowLA.org to read more about these remarkable individuals and others who have contributed to our rich literary history.