Speaking Out: Arts in Louisiana

I am a poet/wife/mother and have participated in arts outreach for many years. The outreach work has been life-changing and healing for me and hopefully for the people I have served.  DAF Louisiana Division of the Arts grants have been the primary funding source for these programs.

Festival of Words directed by Patrice Melnick, and funded by a DAF Louisiana Division of the Arts grant, addressed community needs in Sunset and Grand Coteau. As one of the contributing artists, I presented a storytelling workshop to economically-challenged elderly and an in-school poetry reading to students. The response was overwhelming. The aims were met with great success. Something very important, motivating and transformative occurred through our endeavors.

Recently, I served as lead writer for the Acting Up in Acadiana‘s “Play. Music. Heal.”—a theatrical piece where actors, musicians and writers are exploring the notion that music has the potential to heal across socio-economic and cultural lines. This project received funding from DAF Louisiana Division of the Arts grant. Part of our discovery has been that art; music specifically, has the power to heal the psyche, raise self-perception, bring communities together and lift us to our greatest selves.

The human creates to survive. If we stifle creativity our culture withers. If we do not cry out at this time, we may be on an irreversible path. The effects to our state if the severe cuts to arts funding that Governor Jindal proposes go through could be devastating culturally and economically.

We are an ingenious people—we “make do.”  But when you “gut” the arts, specifically programs that serve at-risk communities, you are cutting not only jobs of the artists, administrators and staff but you are cutting off people from people. Cultural tourism is the second highest industry in Louisiana. I would guess the industry employs thousands, or more, people.

The arts provide personal empowerment. Teaching-artists offer the tools to self-express creatively in theatre arts, music, dance, literature, visual and conceptual art, folk art, and so on. With these cuts, the individuals and communities who are in the most need may be the first and most devastated victims.

Art is a lifeline. We learn who we are through creative expression and by witnessing it. Through art we become more than ourselves. I am resolved to fight for my life as an artist and for the hope of new creators in Louisiana.

Modified Response to a Friend’s Comment Elsewhere: A Manifesto?

I want to write because I want to write.

I have something to prove to myself, to the world in a way, yes…but I need to remember that writing is a joyful act and I should not be pained with “having to prove” syndrome. Meaning I shouldn’t write from that headspace, you know?

This is the challenge: trying to get beneath the surface and into the ground of myself. I want to find the poetry in me—to write from the deepest heartspace and clearest headspace.

I want to tap into a vein of knowing that offers up resonant and authentic insight. I want to know and write what I know in a clear voice. I want to avoid Baroque language—by keeping it real, cohesive and accessible, and by enlivening but not burdening the language.

I want the authority to say it. I want to clear away the dross…for me it is simply about the work–doing the work.

I don’t want to be a lazy writer (anymore.) I don’t want to get caught up in the externals—publishing just to boost my ego comes to mind only because I have had a string of rejections in the past couple of months (I was only sparingly submitting work, sending drafts and more than likely sending things to markets that wouldn’t be a good fit for my work in the first place.) It was a kick in the derriere that forced me to refocus on the writing: love the work I do, find the core—what say you?

In Clear Voices: Lana Maht Wiggins & Clare L. Martin

Casa Azul Reading Series
(Hosted by Patrice Melnick)

In Clear Voices: Lana Maht Wiggins & Clare L. Martin


Thursday, April 9, 2009

7:00pm – 9:00pm

Casa Azul Gifts

 232 ML King Dr

Grand Coteau, LA

Host: Patrice Melnick

Phone: 3376621032

Email: casa.azul.gc@gmail.com


Thursday, April 9, 2009. 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., poets Lana Maht Wiggins and Clare L. Martin will read original works of poetry, followed by Open Mic.

Lana Maht Wiggins is the author of Notes from Refuge (Plain View Press), poetic narratives of her life in New Orleans and her personal refugee experience immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Notes from Refuge was a finalist in the 2006 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Contest. Lana also received the Judge Felix Voorhies Award for Creative Writing and a Jon Z. Bennet Award in The Deep South Writer’s Conference Poetry Contest in 1996. She has been published in The Southwestern Review, Deep South Writer’s Chapbook, Dance to Death, Words-Myth, Moondance, Knock and The Smoking Poet.

Clare L. Martin is a poet-mother-wife. Her creative writing has appeared in Inch, Eclectica Magazine, Wheelhouse Magazine and The Blue Fifth Review and in other literary magazines. Her poem “4-Way Stop at Dusk” appears in the anthology Best of Farmhouse Magazine Vol. 1.  She is also the playwright of “Waterlines” produced in April and November of 2006, and in May 2007, as part of the project “Sustained Winds,” a collaboration with the theater company Acting Up (in Acadiana) and 40 Louisiana artists responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2007, “Sustained Winds” was performed in New York City as part of FringeNYC. Sustained Winds was again performed at Festival International de Louisiane April 25, 2008.

Recently Clare served as a poet-presenter of a poetry workshop and facilitator of a storytelling session for the first annual Festival of Words, in the communities of Sunset and Grand Coteau, LA; and served as Lead Writer for Play. Music. Heal.: a multi-disciplined collaborative theatre work-in-development by the company Acting Up (in Acadiana.) The project brings together actors, musicians and writers in creating a contemporary story revolving around the potential for music to heal.

The performances will be followed by an Open Mic of poetry and music in which everyone is invited to participate.  This free event takes place from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Grand Coteau at Casa Azul, 232 ML King Dr. Free Black Beans and Rice.


The cast was removed today…I am using a walker and it seems to work well for me—or I work well with it. I’m very very tired.  More soon…I promise to write more often. 🙂