Dillard University’s Mona Lisa Saloy named state poet laureate

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Mona Lisa Saloy (photo by Larry Everage)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (KLFY) — Louisiana has a new state poet laureate as of Aug. 14, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards and the La. Endowment for the Humanities.

Mona Lisa Savoy, an English professor at Dillard University, will serve a two-year term, taking over from incumbent poet laureate John Warner Smith.

“Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy beautifully captures the culture and essence of Louisiana in her mesmerizing poetry,” said Edwards.  “She understands the importance of using art to preserve our stories and pass them down for generations. As Louisiana’s poet laureate, she will continue to promote the art of poetry and inspire more people to pick up their pen and capture the world around them through verse.” 

A native New Orleanian as well as a poet and folklorist, Saloy is the Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor of English at Dillard. Her first collection of poetry, “Red Beans & Ricely Yours: Poems” won the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry as well as the Pen Oakland-Josephine Miles 16th Annual National Literary Awards in 2006. Her second published collection, “Second Line Home: New Orleans Poems”, was published in 2014.

Saloy earned a Ph.D. and an MFA from LSU, an MA from San Francisco State University, and a BA from the University of Washington. Her work has been published in numerous academic and literary journals, including Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, Callaloo, Southern Journal of Linguistics, African American Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal and more.

“Being selected as the Louisiana State Poet Laureate is a great honor and a wonderful opportunity for me personally and to promote poetry throughout our great state,” said Saloy. “I am thankful for this moment, for my ancestors, for my family, for my 7th Ward Neighborhood—the home of Jazz and great musicians and writers.”

As Louisiana’s literary ambassador for the next two years, Saloy will travel the state encouraging fellow Louisianans to explore and engage with poetry. In addition to Smith, previous recent poets laureate include Jack Bedell, Brenda Marie Osbey, Darrell Bourque, Julie Kane, Ava Leavell Haymon and Peter Cooley.

“Guided by the goal of the national Poet Laureate, I will seek to raise the consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry,” said Saloy. “I want to encourage folks to tell their unique Louisiana stories in verse, to honor ancestors, and look with hope into tomorrow.”

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