When the Water Came: Interview-Poems with Victims of Hurricane Katrina by Cynthia Hogue and Rebecca Ross

Categories: Literary

CynthiaHoguemain_550.jpg
Photograph on the cover by Rebecca Ross, courtesy of Cynthia Hogue.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, Cynthia Hogue knew she had to respond.

Hogue is a poet. When the hurricane hit in 2005 she was living in metro Phoenix, but she'd lived in New Orleans a decade before Katrina and taught in the University of New Orleans' MFA program. Hogue admits it was a place she disliked intensely at times. Now, when she goes back, she says she has an entirely different response.

Hogue, who currently teaches modern and contemporary poetry at Arizona State University, began by interviewing 13 evacuees -- all of whom were relocated to Arizona for various amounts of time.

She recorded these documentary-style interviews, transcribed them, and using only each interviewee's words, she created 13 poems.

It was during this process, she brought Tempe photographer Rebecca Ross on board. They received a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and "When the Water Came" was born. Their book was just published by the University of New Orleans Press.

Read an excerpt from Hogue and Ross' book and more about their upcoming events after the jump ...

Victoria Green, Mother of Four (excerpt)

We the people of New Orleans
always talked of The Big One,
but I had not heard of Katrina.
Hurricanes come and go.
But when Lake Pontchartrain broke,
every one of us was screaming
and hollering. If the lake was flooding
the city, we knew it'd never be the same.
These times you remember every kid
          you went to first grade with
                    by name. You wonder where
                              everybody was, the bum
on the corner, the pickpocketers,
the little man that's always on Bourbon Street
painting the city. CNN was showing people on houses.
This was not a strange neighborhood to me.
This was my neighborhood.
It's where I went to school. Where
I shopped for groceries at Circle Food.
I got married at that church,
christened my children, buried my kin.
          New Orleans is the cornerstone
                    for spirituality, the stomping grounds
                              for psychic ability. You don't
get on the bus and go somewhere else.
It's our culture. You'd have to be a citizen
of New Orleans to understand.
I was here a week and my mother passed.
She never had been sick.
I think any of us would trade
any charity we got to go back
to August 15, 2005 and warn all our family
that terrible storm would take everything away
          from us. But we don't
                    get those chances.
                              We get what we get. 


"I arrived in New Orleans as a northerner with numerous expectations and stereotypes," says Hogue. "And then it changed me. This book is my offering to that culture, that city and the gulf coast."

"Reflections on the Storm: Five Years After Hurricane Katrina" will have an Exhibit Opening Reception at Gammage Auditorium at ASU, Friday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.

Hogue and Ross will also be sharing their work at Changing Hands on Sept. 7 and displaying their book at the Scottsdale Library from Sept. 10 to Nov. 27. More information can be found on Hogue's website

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