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Reviews

Chansons by the Bayou

Louisiana being the jazz capital of the United States (and the world, for that matter), one easily forgets the other contributions she has made to American culture. Then one remembers Louisiana is Walker Percy’s adopted home and the setting of his most famous novel, The Moviegoer. Perhaps the writers Ernest J. Gaines and Shirley Ann Grau also come to mind, the horror novelist Anne Rice and crime novelist James Lee Burke, and literary luminaries such as Grace King and Kate Chopin.

One may still forget that the Pelican State has been and remains the home of some of the most redoubtable poets of the last hundred years. In Louisiana Poets: A Literary Guide, a handsome and jargon-free new collection from the University Press of Mississippi, coauthors Catharine Savage Brosman and Olivia McNeely Pass have set out to rectify that, and very successfully, too.

This is a serious work of literary criticism and not a compendium of gossip or an attempt to push some shallow definition of literary “diversity” for its own sake. Brosman is professor emerita of French studies at Tulane University and an indefatigable poet and scholar, as well as this magazine’s long-standing poetry editor. She can easily fit into the same category as the one in which Russell Kirk placed the venerable Flannery O’Connor: that of a “woman of humane letters.” She is, in addition, a true but never prudish...

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