Friday, May 4, 2012

LA Poet Laureate to Give Bicentennial Reading

With every city and town across the state celebrating the Louisiana Bicentennial all year long, Lake Charles is offering its own series of events to showcase its role in the state's history. The Arts & Humanities Council of SWLA and the Imperial Calcasieu Museum have partnered with the Lake Charles/SWLA Convention & Visitors Bureau to facilitate these events as a way to honor and celebrate our rich history, heritage, and culture.

On Saturday, May 12th, the current Louisiana Poet Laureate, Julie Kane, will give a special poetry reading at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum at 4 p.m. As part of the bicentennial, Kane has been commissioned to compose an original series of poems which use the history of Lake Charles and the bicentennial as inspiration, and this series will be revealed during the May 12th reading which will be held under the arms of the Museum's history 375 year-old Sallier Oak. A reception will follow the reading.

Kane's series will examine the intersection between landscape and identity while united the familiar images and symbols of Southwest Louisiana. "We are honored to have Julie immortalize Lake Charles in this way, and we can't wait for the big reveal," said Susan Reed, executive director of the Museum. "Julie is a true Louisiana poet with a great, fresh perspective of our state's identity. We want to really show the rest of the state how unique Southwest Louisiana is and how we tie into the state's 200 year legacy.

In her approach to the Lake Charles series, Kane picked up local folklorist Keagan LeJeune's book Always for the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War, which details Southwest Louisiana figures that are closely tied to the region's history and identity. Kane also worked with the article "How Louisiana Became a State" by Ron Chapman which appeared in Louisiana Life. "In order to be inspired to write poems responding to the subject of Louisiana's statehood, I had to first feel a personal connection to the subject, and those two historians really brought the era and the politics to life for me," Kane commented.

Kane is also a non-fiction writer, editor, and translator and is the author of several books of poetry with many of her poems appearing widely in anthologies. Kane, who currently lives in Natchitoches, La., was appointed to the position of Louisiana Poet Laureate by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2011, and is a professor of English at Northwestern State University.

Also this month, the Arts Council and the Convention & Visitors Bureau will unveil downtown's newest public art display on Thursday, May 17th, at 2 p.m. Local artist Fred Stark was contracted by the Arts Council to create a bicentennial mural on the south side of locally-operated dessert shop Sweets & Treats. Stark's murals appear in sixteen states, and this large scale bicentennial-themed mural will illustrate our Southwest Louisiana connection to Louisiana's statehood. Composed in three different layers and timelines, the mural will show the visual history of Louisiana from 1812 to 2012.

That evening, Louisiana Public Broadcasting will host a free screening of the bicentennial documentary Louisiana: 200 Years of Statehood at the Benjamin W. Mount Auditorium at Central School at 7 p.m. The documentary is narrated by Harry Connick, Jr., and the public is invited to attend.

The season of bicentennial events in Lake Charles will continue in September with a unique George Rodrigue exhibit titled
200 Years: The Faces & Places of Louisiana. For more information on the reading, call the Museum at 439-3797. For more information on the bicentennial, contact the Convention & Visitors Bureau at 436-9588 or visit

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