In 1942, Louisiana established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by John Warner Smith, who was appointed to a two-year term in 2019. Smith is the author of four published collections of poetry, including most recently “Muhammad’s Mountain” (Lavender Ink, 2018).

recent & featured listings

Louisiana poet laureaute
Ava Leavell Haymon

Ava Leavell Haymon is the author of Eldest Daughter (Louisiana State University Press, 2013).

Related Poets

Related Poems

Meditations at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park


Dear Tom Dent,
We still love you
And what it means
To be a black college
President's son
Whose point of pride
And rebellion look
Like men in the 6th
& 7th Wards.  You
And I knelt before
Them until they
Groaned.  And ain't
That music too,
The body of several
Shades made into
One sound of want
Or without or wish
A Negro would
Back home, little light
Skin, come give Daddy
A kiss.

I present myself that you might

Understand how you got here
And who you owe.  As long as

I can remember Mona Lisa Saloy
Humming along, the band lives,
Every goodbye a lie.  Everyone

Of them carries the weight
He chose.  And plays it.  No theft. 
No rape.  No flood.  No.  Not in
This moment.  Not in this lovely

Sunlit room of my mind.  Holy.
So the Bible says, in the beginning,
A black woman.  I am alive.  You?
Alive.  You born with the nerve

To arrive yawning.  You who walk
Without noticing your feet
On an early morning swept hard-

Wood floor. This because Eve,
Because Lucy.  This the whole

Toe of the boot of America tapping.

Poetry is where
I understand
I am nothing
If I can't sit
For awhile
In the audience
Or alone, sit down
Awhile and thank
God the chair
Is still warm.




The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
     went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

In Louisiana

The long, gray moss that softly swings
   In solemn grandeur from the trees,
   Like mournful funeral draperies,--
A brown-winged bird that never sings.

A shallow, stagnant, inland sea,
   Where rank swamp grasses wave, and where
   A deadliness lurks in the air,--
A sere leaf falling silently.

The death-like calm on every hand,
   That one might deem it sin to break,
   So pure, so perfect,--these things make
The mournful beauty of this land.