Monday, March 19, 2012

Two literary events honor Louisiana's Bicentennial

             In honor of Louisiana’s Bicentennial this year, there are two special literary events to be enjoyed.
            The LSU Libraries Special Collections presents “State of Transition: Louisiana Circa 1812,” through June 2 at LSU Hill Memorial Library in Baton Rouge. The exhibition is free and examines topics of daily life during Louisiana’s transformation from territory to state in the early 19th century as well as the sometimes rancorous political process through which Louisiana attained statehood. Other topics include Louisiana becoming “American,” the state’s role in the War of 1812 and institutions such as slavery and religion.
             The display draws mainly from the print and manuscript holdings housed within the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections of the LSU Libraries Special Collections. Notable items included in the exhibit are Gov. William Claiborne’s correspondence, the state’s first constitution, a retrospective on the legend of Jean Lafitte, a letter from Andrew Jackson to his wife while en route to the Battle of New Orleans and documents about the 1811 slave revolt.
             The exhibition also features models of homes typical of the era, which are on loan from the LSU Department of Geography and Anthropology, and artifacts from the LSU Textile and Costume Museum.
             Hill Memorial Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
            The Historic New Orleans Collection unveiled its “Furnishing Louisiana, 1735–1835” exhibit, which features more than 50 pieces of early Louisiana furniture, including armoires, high-post beds, chests, tables, footstools, a child’s cradle and one of the oldest documented pieces of Louisiana furniture, a refectory table from the Ursuline convent. On loan from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia, is a New Orleans–made Campeche chair. Jefferson appreciated the comfort of the curved-leg chair, and his advocacy helped popularize the form outside of Louisiana.
            The free exhibition brings to life pieces featured in THNOC’s award-winning publication “Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadian Furniture, 1735–1835” by authors Jack D. Holden, H. Parrott Bacot, Cybele T. Gontar, Brian J. Costello and Francis J. Puig.
            “Furnishing Louisiana, 1735-1835” is on view now through June 17 and will offer several related programs. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The companion book retails for $95 and is available at The Shop at The Collection, independent booksellers and For more information, visit or call (504) 523-4662.

Tennessee Williams Festival this weekend
The Tennessee Wiliams/New Orleans Literary Festival celebrates its 26th anniversary Wednesday through Sunday, March 21-25, in several venues throughout New Orleans. There will be two days of master classes for writers, panels and lectures, celebrity interviews, theater, food and music events, literary walking tours, book fair and the annual Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest.
Recently published is “My Friend Tom: The Poet-Playwright Tennessee Williams” by close friend and poet William Jay Smith. Smith met Williams in St. Louis when both were starting their careers as writers. He offers a critical analysis of Williams’s early work in poetry and drama, plus reflects on their careers in pre-World War II South and postwar New York. The book is based on Smith’s correspondence with Williams, excerpts from literary journals and newspapers and more. Smith is a multi-published author and former U.S. Poet Laureate.
            Some of the speakers at the Tennessee Wiliams/New Orleans Literary Festival include actors Piper Laurie and Amanda Plummer; authors John Guare (“A Free Man of Color”) and Laura Lippman; Nick Spitzer, folklorist and producer and host of radio’s “American Routes;” Amy Hempel (“Collected Stories”) and Julie Kane, Louisiana’s 2012 poet laureate and many more.
For information on the festival, call (504) 581-1144 or (800) 990-3378 or visit

New releases
            Poet, editor and UNO teacher Bill Lavender has published “Memory Wing,” a memoir in verse that explores the outer reaches of truth. Lavender is a native of Fayetteville, Ark., although a long-time New Orleans resident, and is the previous author of numerous books, including “I of the Storm,” “While Sleeping” and the anthology “Another South: Experimental Writing in the South.”
            Pelican Publishing has released “The Story Behind the Stone” by Robert Jeanfreau, a pictorial guide detailing the history of 40 New Orleans monuments, including many in the French Quarter.
            Roy Lunk has published a historic book titled “Des Allemands: A Bayou Runs Through It,” with $2 donated to St. Gertrude Church from every book sold at $12. The book is available at regional stores or from Lunk by calling (985) 758-7406.

Author, medium Schram to visit Ruston B&B
            Author and medium Allyson Glynn Schram of Arnaudville will give intuitive readings March 29, 30 and 31 at the Lewis House Victorian Bed and Breakfast, 210 E. Alabama in Ruston. Schram is the author of “The Mortician and The Medium,” an ebook series that offers humor — her husband is a mortician — in addition to an exploration of being a “contemporary intuitive,” or person who receives messages from those who have passed.
            “I believe that there is no such thing as death,” Schram wrote me. “The physical body gives out, but the soul is eternal. Through the vibration of love, we stay connected to those who have been in our lives. People who have passed on are coming through to show you that life continues and they are still around you.”
            Readings cost $80; call (985) 662-1780 to schedule an appointment.

Book events
            Casa Azul Gifts will host a reading and open mic featuring Creative Writing Students of Opelousas High School at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at Casa Azul Gifts, 232 Martin Luther King Drive in Grand Coteau. The Opelousas High School Creative Writers will perform original poems and stories written throughout the school year under the direction of Jessica Bonnem.  Some of these students participated in a workshop with award-winning poet Toi Derricotte in the 2011 Festival of Words and several placed in the Festival of Words Creative Writing Contest. Participants are free to bring their own poems, songs or stories for the open mic that follows. The free, community event is open to all ages. For more information, call Patrice Melnick at (337) 662-1032 or email
            Lesley Crawford Costner will sign copies of “Goodnight Acadiana” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at Barnes & Noble Lafayette and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Tenzie Gifts.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at