Louisiana Writer Award

Darrell Bourque, November 2014

Darrell Bourque

Darrell Bourque has published nine collections of poems: Plainsongs (Cross-Cultural Communications, Merrick, NY); The Doors between Us (Louisiana Literature Press, SELU, Hammond, LA); Burnt Water Suite (Wings Press, San Antonio); The Blue Boat (University of Louisiana Press); In Ordinary Light: New and Selected Poems (UL Press); Call and Response: Conversations in Verse, a collaboration with Louisiana poet Jack B. Bedell (Texas Review Press of the Texas A&M Press Consortium); Holding the Notes (a commissioned chapbook, Chicory Bloom Press, Thibodaux, LA); Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie (UL Press) and if you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook (Yellow Flag Press, Lafayette, LA).

Plainsongs was the inaugural issue of Cross-Cultural Communications' Cajun Writers Chapbook Series, and The Doors between Us was the inaugural issue of Louisiana Literature's annual chapbook series (Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond).  The Blue Boat was the first issue in the Louisiana Writers Series published by University of Louisiana Press.

Bourque's Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie was a finalist in Foreword Review's annual poetry competition (2014) and the 2014 winner of the Best Poetry Book Award given by Independent Book Publishing Professional Group and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Novelist and short story writer Ernest J. Gaines, first recipient of the Louisiana Writer Award, says of the poems in The Blue Boat, "Whether he is writing about old women fishing from bridges, or children playing in the house, or a member of the family standing for a portrait, Darrell wants you to see, feel, and hear that moment----which you do."  Of the same collection, Louisiana poet Sheryl St. Germain says, "I know of no one who has created a language like Bourque's.  His striking originality may come out of his straddling for most of his life, two languages.... The syntax has remnants of French, remnants of the syntax of Cajuns speaking English, and remnants of the formal English one learns in school."

Of Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie, novelist Colum McCann writes, "These poems begin in the everyday and end in the infinite.  He takes the mysterious and strips it raw. Then, somehow, he makes hope and legend rhyme."   And, Zachary Richard, first Poet Laureate of French Louisiana, says, "I am happy to see that Darrell Bourque has jumped into the pit of his Acadian heritage like a bull dog.  Not easy to wrestle with the faded glories of our past. Not easy to remember without romanticizing. Not easy to evoke without pandering, and yet this is what this poet has done: pages full of light and insight, a vision of ourselves which makes us better for the telling."

In 2007 Bourque was named the Louisiana Poet Laureate by Governor Kathleen Blanco and renamed to that position for a 2009-2011 by Governor Bobby Jindal.  His adopted mission for his tenure as poet laureate was bringing poetry into community centers, community libraries, and the pre-college classroom with workshops, lectures, and poetry readings.  During his tenure he also premiered the "Just Listen to Yourself" program at the State Library of Louisiana, a program designed to bring the diverse voices of Louisiana poetry to state workers in the Capitol complex during their lunch hour but open to the public as well. The event takes place every April during National Poetry Month. 

Bourque has served as President of the National Association for Humanities Education (now HERA, Humanities Education Research Association) and as the editor of its journal Interdisciplinary Humanities.  He is professor emeritus of English at the University of Louisiana Lafayette where he served as director of the Deep South Writers Conference, the director of the Freshman English Program, the coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program, the director of the creative writing program, and head of the Department of English.  He was recipient of the ULL Foundation's Distinguished Professor Award and its Outstanding Teacher Award.  He was also the first Friends of the Humanities/Board of Regents Honor Professorship, a position he held until his retirement in 2003.

His current projects include work with Festival of Words-Grand Coteau, a literary festival bringing local and internationally known writers to a largely underserved and underprivileged rural community, and serving on the board of the Ernest J. Gaines Center at University of Louisiana Lafayette where he directs the Young Writers Apprenticeship Program for high school students.  He is also a founding member of Narrative4, an international story exchange program based in Chicago and New York; and he serves on the advisory board of NuNu's Arts and Culture Collective, a multidisciplinary creative place-making initiative based in Arnaudville, LA.

Bourque has been selected as one of the Louisiana artist to participate in Degrees of Separation, a two-year Louisiane-Bretagne exchange (Oct. 2014-Oct. 2016).  The exchange will involve Louisiana literary and visual artists interacting and collaborating with literary and visual artists from Bretagne in France.  The exchange is sponsored by The Ann Connelly Gallery, NUNU Arts and Culture Collective, Les Articulteurs in Redon, France, as well as the Consulate of France in New Orleans and The Walls Project.

With the publication of if you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook Bourque initiated an effort to create a public commemorative for the iconic pioneer Louisiana Creole musician Amédé Ardoin who died at the Central Louisiana Hospital in Pineville in 1942 and was buried in an unmarked graveyard in the "Negro" cemetery. The aim of the project, which is co-directed by Patricia Cravins, is to honor the place that Ardoin holds in both Creole and Cajun cultures and to symbolically "bring him home" to St. Landry Parish.

Bourque lives and works in rural St. Landry Parish with his grandson Will Turley, a painter, and his wife Karen, a glass artist.


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