“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
Welcome to the second stop on the blog tour for Margaret Simon‘s new book, Bayou Song: Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2018)! Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky to get to know Margaret both as a writer and a friend through our online critique group. Sharing early drafts of your writing with another person is an act of trust, but it is also an invitation. An invitation to learn more about the truth of that person’s heart. The south Louisiana landscape is woven into Margaret’s heart and has always been integral to her writing. So it was no surprise when she first mentioned her idea for this book. Watching Bayou Song grow from that tentative glimmer to a published book and been a thrill and an honor.
Annie Dillard once wrote “there is no such thing as an artist–only the world lit or unlit, as the world allows.” I’m not sure I agree with the first part of this thought, but Margaret is definitely someone who sees “the world lit.” This light shines throughout Bayou Song, creating a brilliant mosaic that brings Margaret’s beloved Bayou Teche magically to life.
This book is an invitation to linger and get to know the Bayou Teche. From the opening pages, where we learn legend of the bayou’s origin, to “Bayou Sunset Tanka,” the collection’s final poem, we are captivated. “I Am a Beckoning Brown Bayou” literally invites us to “stay awhile” and get to know the many moods of this mysterious world.
Margaret’s poems introduce us to the many plants and animals who make their home in the bayou. Nutria, with their “bright orange tusks” were unfamiliar to me. Other inhabitants were familiar, but Margaret’s vivid images helped me see them in a new light. I will never think of crawfish again without thinking of their “round peppercorn peepers.” And of course baby egrets are “feather-glistening,” “worm-juggling,” and “nest snuggling.”
Anna Cantrell’s illustrations and Henry Cancienne’s photographs complement Margaret’s words beautifully, bringing the bayou to life in a way any one medium couldn’t individually. Their collaboration is similar to the collaboration of our critique group. The work of each member makes the others stronger. Henry Cancienne’s photos provide visual support for readers who aren’t familiar with the diverse inhabitants of the bayou. Anna Cantrell’s watercolors, from two-stepping herons to “mischievous” raccoons bring Margaret’s whimsical images to life. Together, they create a tapestry of “paper-lace fragments of butterfly wings” and the “waving leaves of cypress trees”
The inclusion of factual information about the plants and animals who call the bayou home adds another dimension to this incredible resource. Through the “Write It” and “Sketch It” sections, Margaret extends an invitation to readers to learn more about their own environment. This appeal to write and draw will help readers see the similarities between the animals that live in habitats familiar to them–raccoons, toads, turtles–as well as understand the adaptability of these animals that allow them to thrive in a variety of habitats.
I am grateful to Margaret for inviting me to share this journey with her. Of our group she writes, “You hold me up. You give me…confidence…” Our words are our own, but by sharing and letting others help us shape them, they become stronger, we become stronger. Strong enough to write an amazing book like Bayou Song.
Don’t miss the next stops on Margaret’s blog tour to learn more about Bayou Song!
Friday, June 22:
Friday, June 29:
Ruth Hersey at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town
Friday, July 6:
Kimberly Hutmacher at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes
Friday, July 13:
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Tuesday, July 17:
Tuesday, July 24
Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy
Friday, July 27:
Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink
Monday, July 30
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Friday, Aug. 3
Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work that Matters
Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Kelsey, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.