Poets remember Katrina disaster

Avi Grunfeld
Daily Pennsylvanian
September 20, 2010

While Hurricane Katrina transpired five years ago, its aftermath is still being felt in New Orleans.

For this reason, the Kelly Writers House hosted a commemoration of the fifth-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Monday evening by inviting four poets -- Tulane University professor Peter Cooley, his daughter Nicole Cooley, Cynthia Hogue and Tonya Foster -- to read samples of their work and answer questions.

Peter Cooley, a professor of English and director of Creative Writing at Tulane, opened the program by reading three poems related to Katrina, describing what he endured during the disaster and how it has affected his views to this day.

"The event helped me recognize how precious life is and that we need to live in the moment and appreciate what we have because we may lose it," he said.

Nicole Cooley then read two poems from her poetry collection Breach. She spoke of the powerlessness she felt being in New York during the event without being able to contact her parents for three days.

Foster, author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court, conveyed a somewhat similar feeling, as she was living in Harlem during the time of the disaster.

Hogue, who has published seven poetry collections including her most recent work, The Incognito Body, read three "interview poems," a form of poetry she considers to be new and experimental.

After their readings, the poets discussed the importance of poetry as a medium in response to a question from an audience member.

"Poetry has more permanence than other art forms," Peter said. "The best thing about poems is that you can read them over and over again."

Program coordinator Erin Gautsche and the four speakers all said they were impressed with the turnout, which included students in professor Simon Richter's freshman seminar, "Water Worlds."

"I thought it was very informative to hear first hand the emotional recounts of the events of Hurricane Katrina," College freshman Shane Safer said.

"It did more to educate me than any news program."