Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Yesterday poet Brenda Marie Osbey, Poet Laureate of Louisiana, visited Santa Barbara for a reading sponsored by the Center for Black Studies and several academic departments and programs. I made sure to get myself over to campus for the reading, as I had last seen Brenda in D.C. when Anna and I ran into her outside the hotel where the American Studies Association was meeting. In D.C. we learned, to our great relief, that Brenda's home had been spared by Hurricane Katrina and that she was already back in the city.

So it was good to see her here on the West Coast, winding up a reading tour, and to get news of New Orleans and other poet friends from the region. The good folk at UCSB have been working on several Katrina-related projects, and a number of students had gone to New Orleans earlier in the year to lend a hand.

In addition to reporting on those efforts, the UCSB faculty were presenting awards to student writers at the beginning of this event. Brenda, generous and gracious as always, took time to speak with the student poets and to give them contacts they might consider for publishing their works in the future.

The reading was everything we've come to expect from Osbey over the years. I was particularly interested in a poem she wrote in tribute to the late Tom Dent. Dent was a life-long arts activist, and central member of the UMBRA Society of Poets. He had begun to attract wider attention late in his life because of his non-fiction works on the South and the Civil Rights Movement. Osbey's poem was a fitting tribute to a fellow writer and appeared to be especially effective with this young audience, most of whom had never heard of Dent before.

Brenda Marie Osbey is bringing the news of New Orleans to the rest of the country along with her poems. Just what we needed this week; good news that stays good.

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