This time last year I was in New Orleans where I had lived for 7 years (I’d previously lived in Mississippi for 3 years). I wanted to be present for the tenth anniversary of the Levee Disaster which happened after Hurricane Katrina; it was this man-made failing that caused the devastation not the hurricane itself.
Yesterday was the 11th anniversary and I wondered how much longer I will continue to mark this date and still feel the sharpness of grief at the immensity of loss which was mine and not mine, which is still a powerful presence for many of my friends in the Big Easy. I’m sad this year to see the catastrophic floods in South Louisiana where 150,000 homes have been damaged and how quiet the news has been on this subject. Don’t get me started on that!
I find it painful to re-read the piece I wrote for the Wales Arts Review where I tried to make sense of the images that wouldn’t leave my head after I’d returned shortly after the hurricane. I wasn’t able to write coherently on the experience; the piece was about that inability:
Memories of the Levee Disaster in the Deep South
In a collaboration with the Gareth Roberts Jazz Quintet, I sharpened the words, made a series of vignettes called Sucking on Sugarcane inspired by his carefully-crafted music; this helped me to release some of the complicated feelings I had held onto. These were top-class musicians and Gareth Roberts’ insight into place through music was a gift.
When I go back, I’ll be sure to walk this street: