“I understand Somewhere it Has Rained:” Patricia Smith's Writing of Katrina

By Elizabeth Oxler


Poet Patricia Smith's impetus for writing a collection of poetry centered around Hurricane Katrina was largely her perception that "there was a danger that Katrina was going to disappear" (2012:1). Smith's subsequent interviews in the years following Blood Dazzler's publication consistently mention this perception of the dwindling interest in the impact of the hurricane. Largely known as a slam poet, Smith began to notice members of the audience "fidgeting" during her performances of the poems that are included in the collection. When she approached the audience members, Smith heard comments such as "Well they had Mardi Gras, didn't they?" (1) referring to the observance of the holiday the winter following the storm. For Smith, these experiences suggested that audiences outside of the center of the storm "really wanted [Katrina] to be over...they saw this false deity Mardi Gras on CNN and thought they could let it go" (2).

Carl Lindahl's 2012 article "Legends of Hurricane Katrina: The Right to Be Wrong, Survivor-to-Survivor Storytelling and Healing" sets out to explore the impact of survivor interviews conducted by other survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Much of this work, Lindahl notes, is predicated on the desire to move away from the "media born legends" (2012:139) that exist in the narratives of Katrina and instead to produce "natural narratives" that empower the speakers' experiences over those of the interviewers. Lindahl's subsequent collaboration with Marcia Gaudet and Barry Ancelet in Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita highlights the desire not only to deconstruct the dominant narratives put forth by those outside the affected areas of the storm, but also to redirect the narrative back to the experiences of the individuals who were directly affected by the storm as a way to preserve their narratives.

Lindahl notes in his article that "folklorists were not surprised by the range of conflicting truths that began to take on story-shape the instant Katrina's pinwheel clouds parted" (2012:141). Lindahl, Gaudet, and Ancelet differ from Smith in that they are folklorists, trained in the understanding of how narratives take shape as well as in the methods used to collect narratives. They are also closer to the regions impacted by the storm by way of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas, whereas Smith lives and works outside New York City. However, while the three collected and put to paper the stories of individuals who experienced the storm, Smith also gathered material from real stories for her poetry, using those facts as the basis for her interpretations. All of these writers were impacted by the responses of their communities to the storm, and they each carved out a justification for their collecting: truth for the folklorists and memory for Smith. What Smith writes, though fictional, engages in truth-telling, using the base schemas of myth, legend, and tale as her overarching frames. I argue that we can consider Patricia Smith as a folk narrator, and a particularly novel one at that. Smith's position of outsider gives her a different type of narrative creativity from which to work. Smith works from and against existing narratives of New Orleans, engaging the power of the Myth of New Orleans and the Myth of Hurricane Katrina while also creating new stories to add to the folk tradition of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

Smith's position as both an outsider and slam poet situates her as an important type of folk narrator. Blood Dazzler was critically well received and a finalist for the National Book Award. Susan Larson, book editor for the Times Picayune, said of Smith's work: "Her fury is all ours, and it is something to see, a match for any storm" (2008). The irony of Larson's comment is that Smith does not belong in the community of "ours," and she does not hide the fact that she is writing about an experience that she only watched from thousands of miles away. Smith says that:

There were so many things happening during Katrina so quickly that we weren't getting to know faces, we were getting used to statistics. The idea of grown women being lifted up in baskets with their families, we blocked that out. I wanted to put some human faces back on it...I thought it would be great if someone could pick up this book, 10 years from now and say, "That's right, Katrina happened." That might be all you can hope for at that point. Coming out of that experience, I felt like my mission was different. I don't think the things that people said to me would have been said in public if it hadn't been for those poems. After that I thought my stories had to be deeper than the ones I'd been telling so far. (2012:1)

For Patricia Smith, Mardi Gras is not a placeholder for healing or a sign of moving on for the region. She is storyteller, interpreter, and narrator to an audience that believe the discussion of the disaster should go away. She is also, by virtue of her geographic separation from the region, a captive audience to the stories that continue to come out of the city, those that appear on the news or are reformulated in special issues of journals. Her desire to keep the stories from being folded up and stored away, as well as her experience as a performer and writer, blurs the traditional lines of hierarchy between teller and audience. Eliot Oring calls folk narratives "something of a renovation; the past is made to speak in the present" (1986:123). It is this desire of Smith's coupled with her experience as an interpreter of stories that help us consider her as a folk narrator. Those who tell folk narratives enjoy a type of creativity but additionally have a responsibility to the audience, with the narrator's "individuality necessitating an outlet in a narrative acceptable to the community if [she] is to be permitted to perform again in the future" (123).

Smith's relationship to orality as a slam poet provides her with a particular type of understanding of the connections between the audience and the teller and of how these relationships morph into writer, narrator, and reader. E.A. Biakolo tells us in his work on orality and literacy that memory is a crucial component in storytelling. These memories will become "formalized in existential terms" through "personal participation and practice" (Biakolo 1999). The connection between the interiority of thinking and the externality of action hearkens back to Smith's source of inspiration for her own writing: the images of Katrina she saw on the news. Her "memories" of what happened drove her into action. Smith's work in orality is important here because of the type of community created in a poetry slam. John Miles Foley argues that oral poetry demands a different type of consideration than poetry meant to be read on a page: composition, performance, and reception (2002). Foley says that, "slam doesn't really live until it is orally perfumed before a live audience" (2002). Slam poetry creates a community with each performance, the audience feeding off of and influencing the teller, and vice versa.

It is this type of implicit knowledge of the symbiotic possibilities of poetry and performance that Smith brings to her work on Katrina. She constructs types of narratives that she herself has been exposed to as an audience member of the world of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Smith's position as an already established slam poet enables her to more successfully navigate the world of the folk narrative; the work she does in each performance to connect with the audience while inserting her own frame is similar to what she does in Blood Dazzler, creating the world of Katrina while acknowledging the constructed nature of the collection as a whole. Unlike Lindahl, Ancelet, and Gaudet, Smith is gathering snapshots of events secondhand, through the media and at a geographical distance. What she does with these moments is incorporate them into a work of fiction that engages not only with events that have, for her, become iconic, but also with the myth of New Orleans as it exists to outsiders in general. By viewing these poems through the lens of myth, legend, and tale, we see how Smith draws from the conventions of folk narrative in order to explore the tendency to mythologize New Orleans in the era before, during, and after the events of Hurricane Katrina.

In the poem that opens Blood Dazzler, "Prologue-And Then She Owns You," Smith draws upon myth in order to establish a base interpretation of what New Orleans was, is, and will be in both her eyes and the eyes of her audiences. Eliot Oring defines myth as narratives "generally regarded by the community in which it is told as core narratives in larger ideological systems" (1986:124). Folk narrative often deals in the negotiation of meaning for its audience, and part of its meaning-making for a community is embroiled in the negotiation of the truth of a narrative. Smith herself experienced first-hand not only the negotiation of truth regarding what was being portrayed in the media, but also the negotiation of meaning for the community accessing narra-tives of Katrina and New Orleans from outside the region. In this case, it is fitting for Smith to begin her collection with a poem that takes the form of myth. In keeping with the typical folk narrative structure, the narrator sets the scene of the narrative, and the audience is oriented and identified with the opening line "This is not morning." Then the work of building the oral community begins. "Prologue-And Then She Owns You" situates the audience into a negotiation of place and involves them in its interpretation of what New Orleans is. Smith's myth-making is not overt, but subtle, playing on possible moments of recognition of different but familiar images: "This is not morning. There is a nastiness/Slowing your shoes, something you shouldn't step in./It's shattered beads, stomped flowers, vomit- /Such stupid beauty,/" (1-4). Smith is not explicitly pointing to images like the "shattered beads" and telling us what they mean, but instead she couches them in lists of items and uses the conventions of poetry-enjambment and meter-to build her presentation of the items to the audience. It is up to the audience to decipher and place the items into a larger narrative.

An important component of myth is its primordial nature. Myths often signify the beginnings of an event or idea, and this poem appears before even the table of contents. Looking at the table of contents, it becomes clear that the order of the poems that follow "Prologue" is chronological, from the first moments of the disaster to the concluding poem pages later. "Prologue" appears before the storm hits, and we can read this as a way of Smith setting up the audience to consider a pre-Katrina New Orleans. And unlike a traditional myth, which makes order out of chaos, Smith places the least chaotic poem (the one that does not include the impact of the storm) before the poems that deal with the chaos of Katrina.

Smith also engages another convention of myth, the orientation towards the point of view of an immortal power. In Smith's myth, the goddess is New Orleans herself. The inclusion in the first stanza of New Orleans' "stupid beauty" (4) elevates the persona of New Orleans above mere mortaldom-she (New Orleans) is able to be an oxymoron. The speaker's description of New Orleans as possessing a beauty "that doesn't rely/on any sentence the sun chants" (6-7) places the goddesses' beauty on a celestial sphere into the realm of ceremony and ritual. The speaker says that that we should "Call this something else. Last night it had a name/a name wedged between an organ's teeth, a name/a name pumping a virgin unawares, a curse word" (9-11). "Wail it regardless," (12) the narrator compels the audience. Though the narrator has elevated New Orleans, she (New Orleans) is still affected by the materiality of the world she inhabits: "she wavers," Smith writes, "not knowing how long she/can stomach the introduction of needles,/the brash, boozed warblings of bums with neon crowns/necklaces raining" (17-20). This New Orleans is not just a Mardi Gras or parade on the street, it is a city that experiences a variety of phenomena: drug culture, homelessness, and tourists and residents who line the streets to catch beads off floats. The goddess herself does not even know how to handle these realities. As she tries to speak out her voice is fraught and varied, as she "sounds like cigarettes/public sweat" (21-22) and like the "broken heel on a drag queen's scarlet slings" (23). This voice that she tries, the speaker reminds the audience, is "Your kind of singing" (24). The use of "You" and "Your" linguistically make the reader complicit in the narrative creation. This is the New Orleans that the audience knows, and as such is ordered in its familiarity. Smith writes of the relationship between audience and subject: "Go on, admit it./You are addicted...Hell, let her woo you" (27-32). By the end of the poem, New Orleans takes hold of the reader "lead[ing] you out into the darkness/and makes you drink rain" (47-48). What one knew about New Orleans is compressed in the last line with what one now knows: rain and hurricane.

Smith twists and exposes these meanings throughout the entire poem. This constant enveloping and merging of the past New Orleans with the present is a necessary quality for this piece to exist as a folk narrative; its lack of stagnation allows its ability to exist as an iconic presence. This iconicity is tenuousness, however, for its dynamism and overall familiarity opens New Orleans up to an abundance of different responses and connections for many audiences. Over time, different audiences choose to access different elements of the narrative, and this is ultimately true with the narrative of New Orleans, especially where the outsider or tourist is concerned. The audience moves into the rest of the collection with an understanding of past constructions of New Orleans as well as a consideration of the city's present. Though the rest of this essay will delve into poems after "Prologue," the overarching frame of myth-making as a type of interpretation that Smith exposes is vital to understanding her other poems and their function as other narrative types: legend and tale specifically. One goes into Blood Dazzler with some semblance of what to expect as a reader and audience member.

Oring defines legend as something "set in historical time in the world as we know it today" that "often makes reference to real people and places" (1986:125). This reference to the real can be seen as familiar, and if listeners of a legend can recognize even a small part of the story, the legend can be continued and told again. The existence of truth is also an important aspect of legend. Oring identifies the role of truth in legend as one of negotiation: "the question of truth must be entertained even if that truth is ultimately rejected...the legend never asks for the suspension of belief" (125). Oring notes that the goal of legend, then, is "creating a narrative whose truth is at least worthy of deliberation," and he concludes, "the art of legendry engages the listener's sense of the possible" (125). Smith employs these aspects of legend almost everywhere throughout her collection, but there are four poems that are explicit in their attempt to compel the audience to engage with the narrator in a negotiation of truth. These four poems rely on a variety of audiences, from those who may be only remotely familiar with the references to real people to those who may have a direct connection to the people and objects that are their central subjects. Each of these four poems are highly stylized: they are all versions of persona poems, and one of them, "Ethel's Sestina," takes an extremely complex form. The subjects of these particular poems were consistent symbols of the storm in the media: George W. Bush, the Superdome, Ethel Freeman, and the thirty-four residents of the St. Bernard Parish nursing home. These four subjects were familiar images and stories that were played out over and over in the news coverage of the disaster. The images of each subject, while iconic, were also pervasive, and continued to be folded into various narratives of the disaster as the events played out in the media.

In "The President Flies Over," Smith layers references to and meanings of President George W. Bush, as his actions are critiqued by multiple audiences: those waiting for help, those watching individuals waiting for help on the news, those who think the President did not do enough during the tragedy, and those who would defend the President's response. Instead of trying to represent one or all of these possible readings, Smith instead takes on the persona of the President and tells the story of his infamous fly-over from his perspective. It provides an opportunity for both the teller and the audience to work through one of the most iconic moments of the early days of the hurricane's aftermath.

Smith's President is positioned as an outsider looking in, literally "aloft," watching the impact of the hurricane on a macro level. Smith thus juxtaposes the image of the President "aloft" as parallel to the audience of the poem, who are literally "aloft" or removed from the actual events. This is a crucial moment in this poem's iteration as legend, as both the persona (the President) and the audience are equally removed from the event but still able to understand and be impacted by what they encoun-ter. The impact of this poem is in the ways in which the words of the President reflect the multitudinous perspectives of his actions and presidency, which correspond directly to the multiple perspectives and texts of the hurricane itself. Lines such as "This is my/country as it was gifted me-victimless, vast" (3-4) and "I don't ever have to come down/I can stay hooked to heaven,/dictating this blandness" (11-13) exist with the lines "Every moment I'm awake,/aroused instrumentals channel theme songs,/speaking/what I cannot" (7-10). The indifference of the last line "I understand somewhere it has rained" (19) leaves the poem in a space of ambiguity. The ending's ambiguity prompts the reader to negotiate the truth-Smith does not offer up any kind of solution to Bush's comments in the poems, and the reader remains as distanced from Bush as he is from the events occurring below his plane. These various negotiations are similar to the work of legend-making where the negotiation of truth and distancing is in direct correlation to the narrative's ability to be reproduced in another telling.

Smith uses this device again in two other poems: "Superdome" and "Ethel's Sestina." The negotiation of truth comes from not just the story itself, but the reference point of the subject matter: what the audience and narrator bring to the poems through their own perceptions of the "truth" of these narratives. In the media, the Superdome was a symbol used to critique the response efforts to Hurricane Katrina. Major news outlets wrote stories with the headlines "Refuge of Last Resort" (USA Today 2005); "Trapped in the Superdome: Refuge Becomes a hellhole" (Seattle Times 2005); and "Superdome: Haven Quickly Becomes an Ordeal" (New York Times 2005). Additionally, there was former First Lady Barbara Bush's concern over those who made it to the other dome, the Astrodome in Houston, and stayed there permanently. The ramifications of her now infamous statement that "so many...were underprivileged anyway, so this is working well for them" (New York Times 2005) lasted well after the evacuees moved out of the Astrodome. In "Superdome," Smith writes from the perspective of the building, and like in "The President Flies Over," her vagueness makes clear the Superdome's distance and indifference. The poem itself is short, consisting of only 12 lines. The four stanzas are inversely symmetrical, a couplet, followed by two tercets and a closing quatrain. The tightness of this poetic structure, the specific and symmetric base elements, operate as a type of pattern. The patterned structure of this poem is an added element to the already familiar image of the Superdome, further heightening its legendary quality. Thus, what remains most interesting about this poem is how familiar the image of the Superdome is, but yet how little the poem provides in way of a detailed persona.

In the first lines the building absolves itself of any responsibility: "I did not demand they wade through the overflow from toilets...I didn't feed their squalling babies chewing gum" (1-3). In the third stanza, the superdome "pit[ies]" the "women who had to sleep with their legs/slammed shut" (6-7). The first line of the last stanza, "Glittering and monstrous, I was defined by a man's hand" (9) reads as a solid casting off of responsibility, as the stanza (and poem) ends with the line: "I was never their church, although I disguised myself as shelter/and relentlessly tested their faith" (11-12). Tim Brown, poetry editor for The Brooklyn Rail, calls this particular poem the "Superdome's disregard toward the people ushered inside to ride out the storm" (Brown 2008). The Superdome legend is predicated on the reports that exist about it much more so than the truth of what really took place inside. Smith's personification of the building as an entity able to move back and forth in a consciousness of conscience brings these peculiarities of its story to the forefront.

The third of what I am calling Smith's legend poems centers around Ethel Freeman, the woman who died while waiting for assistance outside the convention center. Like Bush and the Superdome, Smith pinpoints the iconicity of the imagery seen on media outlets and writes from the perspective of that icon. Smith speaks often in interviews of the impact the image of Ethel Freeman had on her conception of and relationship to Hurricane Katrina. The image of Freeman's dead body in a wheelchair covered by a sheet was consistently shown on news channels and outlets reporting on the storm. Freeman's image became a driving force behind the narratives that were critical of local and national responses to the disaster. Like the legend of the President's response and the Superdome, Smith writes from a place of truth negotiation, which is reflected in "Ethel's Sestina:" a persona poem that is repetitive in its base structure. The Sestina's form is six stanzas of six lines each, with a three line envoi at the end. The last words in the first six lines of the poem are repeated in a pattern throughout the rest the poem. Smith's use of this fixed form works similarly to that of "The Superdome." The tight pattern of the sestina is recognizable but also allows for movement within the form, especially in the creativity of the six words that move throughout it. The repeated words-chair, sun, Wait, sleep, son, and come-are the bare-bones framework of the story of Ethel Freeman. She sat in her chair in the hot sun waiting for help while her son tells her that they are just going to have to keep waiting. After she dies, Herbert, her son, is forced to leave her body. In death, she represented the ultimate consequence and fixity of waiting.

Smith's response to the story of Ethel Freeman and to the story of the thirty-four nursing home residents in St. Bernard's Parish, subjects of the poem "34," came from a desire to get to know human faces instead of statistics (2012:1). "34" thus begins with a preface that briefly describes the legend of the thirty-four nursing home residents: they did not evacuate, dying when the floodwaters reached the roof of their nursing home. Smith writes thirty-four stanzas, one for every body found. The stanzas are all written in first person, and only a few name an individual. Some are one-line stanzas, like "There are no bridges" (68), and many invoke lines from the Lord's Prayer. Smith is candid in interviews about the impact this story had on her, as she imagined and interpreted this experience through the lens of events within her own family:

My mother's sister died in a nursing home. She was in the latter stages of Alzheimer's and the nursing home had portioned out her care to different members of the family. I was a teenager at the time, and there was no preparation. It was just, "You stay there from 3-5, sit in a room, and make sure she's OK." So my formally God-fearing aunt was just a totally different person. She was cursing like a sailor and throwing her food. I don't even think she knew. But there was a yellow button on the side of her bed and whenever she pressed it, somebody came. So when I read the story about the patients in St. Bernard Parish, I imagined the lights are out, the water's rising, they can hear the sound of the water coming in, and they're pushing the button and but no one's coming. I had to do something with that image. I also wanted to spark a conversation with the audience. (2012:1).

Oring argues of legends that predictions of improbability often occur in the world of the legend, which is an improbable environment already (1986). Oring's earlier iteration of historical time is important to this understanding; time is at a distance from audiences in legend. This distance lends itself to interpretation. In Smith's case, she interpreted both what she saw on the news of these stories and in the case of "34" drew from her own personal understanding of a nursing home. Smith's use of distance and persona is a way to offer these poems as viable narratives of the storms by working within the frame of legend. The impact of these four poems is necessarily tied to the lack of concrete understanding audiences have of these stories, forcing the readers to reconcile competing versions of the same event.

In defining the tale, Oring again notes the importance of portability with regards to familiarity, emphasizing the lack of both character development and interiority as key components of tales. Though lack of characterization suggests a lack of character-driven narrative, Oring reminds us that lack of characterization does not undermine the progression of the tale itself; in fact, it is what drives it. He argues that "the drama of the folktale, as well as many others, depends upon the encounter between characters who stand at opposite poles of the scale" (1986:128). Smith plays with this idea though the creation of personas in "Up on the Roof" and "Buried," using only personal pronouns to denote their personhood-in neither poem is the narrator named outright. This obfuscation allows Smith to take on the role of folk narrator.

In both poems Smith creates personas of people who are actively dealing with the repercussions and effects of Hurricane Katrina. The protagonist in "Up on the Roof," named as "you," wonders "When are they coming to save us?" (5). As the poem continues, the images of the many rooftop rescues are put into words, lines describing what is seen on the TV screen standing alongside what is imagined as actually happening:

Cameras obsess with your chaos. Now think how America sees you:
Gold in your molars and earlobes. Your naps knotted, craving a brushing (13-16)


You clutch your babies regardless, keep roaring your spite to where God is...
Then mud cracks its script on your forearm,
Each word a misspelled agents. But here come the flyboys to save you (17-19)

These lines directly connect to the first lines of the last stanza, which reads: "Some people think that you're crazy. As you/descend from the heavens,/you choose to head for the questions" (25-27). The use of the second person point-of-view places the reader in a liminal space of recognition. As much as they recognize the narrative as giving a voice to one of the many roof rescues, the voice of the onlooker/watcher is given as much primacy. Thus, both the subject of the poem and the reader of the poem are involved in the crafting of personhood. Smith seems to anticipate this in her last line, which reads: "As you descend from the heavens,/you choose to head for the questions. The earth and its water. The swallow" (21-22).

Smith blurs these lines again in the poem "Buried," which voices one of the many who buried their own after the storm. Like "34," "Buried" also begins with a preface, this time a quote from Ed Mazoue, who was in charge of New Orleans's cemeteries. In the preface, Mazoue says "We do not dig graves or put caskets into graves any longer...families and funeral homes would have to supply grave-digging personnel." The poem itself deals with the reality of this decree, through the eyes and voice of "I." In the first lines of the poem, the events develop from the perspective of "I," literally the space of the ground as the father manipulates the earth in order to bury his son. The poem moves into memory, as the father imagines his son alive and relives memories of their time together before the storm. The movement of play, the "nights of tussle and squeal," (57-58) are now intermingled with the movements of grave-digging: "Plunge. Push. Lift. Toss" (56). The memory of the father looking in on his son at night and the familiar lines of "Where are yoooou?" as he tickles his son's toes take on a new meaning, as the son will be put into the ground, forever separated physically from his father.

The voice of the grave-digger functions similarly to the voice in "Up on the Roof" in that the reader is forced to read the voiced identities alongside the knowledge they already bring to the subject, whether it be from seeing the stories on TV or from the preface Smith provides at the beginning. In this way, one can read these two poems as a new tale-type. Smith plays on expected knowledge and subverts that with voiced representation of the subject. What results is a subverted but still functioning example of what Oring describes as "the encounter between characters who stand at opposite poles of the scale" (1986). In both poems, the voiced character stands at a distance from their subject: the mother in "Up on the Roof" is distanced from those on TV who watched her rescue, and the father in "Buried" is at a distance from his son once he finishes the burial. Both of these poems play on the familiarity of these stories, a tale of Katrina as experienced by those in New Orleans, those in close proximity to the events, and those thousands of miles away. Smith's interpretation of these stories relies on the prior existence of accessible, though multiple and competing, narratives.

August 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One of the many special reports done that weekend was a series of interviews on NPR from various perspectives, such as the first reporters on the scene, Presidents Obama and Bush, and the now famous survivors of Schnell Street in St. Bernard Parish. There was also an ESPN interview with the Superdome's manager, Doug Thornton, about his memories of those days during the storm. Thornton says, "When I'm at a game, it's totally out of mind. But it's usually when I'm alone at night or in here on a Saturday or Sunday, it's kind of eerie. Because you can almost hear the voices, you can hear the crowd, you can smell the smell" (2015:1). These perspectives and voices are part of the narrative of Katrina that has endured. These interviews were done on national radio and media, demonstrating the scale of the impact of the disaster. This impact was one of resonance, and what developed was the existence of new types of voices, many from nowhere near New Orleans. Carl Lindahl notes the importance of engaging in what Michael Eric Dyson calls "memory warfare," a term Dyson coined in his 2006 book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. Patricia Smith's collection, which was published a year after Dyson's, is another early work to engage in this memory warfare. Unlike Dyson and Lindahl, though, Smith's work of fiction acts as a mode of truth-telling with the goal of preserving these stories. Her engagement with fiction as a possible avenue to truth provides a new way of looking at the stories and narratives of the disaster that still permeate the consciousness of not just the city or region, but the nation.

Works Cited

Ancelet, Barry, Marcia Gaudet and Carl Lindahl, eds. 2013. Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press.

Biakolo, E.A. On the Theoretical Foundations of Orality and Literacy. 1999. Research in African Literatures. 30(2): 42-65.

Cage-Conley, Tameka. An Interview with Patricia Smith. Sampsonia Way. 2012.

Foley, John Miles. 2002. How to Read an Oral Poem. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Gold, Scott. 2005. Trapped in the Superdome: Refuge becomes a hellhole. Seattle Times.

Larson, Susan. 2008. Three years later, poems are still putting the impact of Hurricane Katrina into words. The Times-Picayune.

Lindahl, Carl. 2012. Legends of Hurricane Katrina: The Right to Be Wrong, Survivor-to-Survivor Storytelling, and Healing. Journal of American Folklore. 125(496): 139-176.

New York Times. 2005. Barbara Bush Calls Evacuees Better Off.

Oring, Eliot, ed. 1986. Folk Narratives. Folk Groups and Folk Genres: An Introduction. Utah: Utah State University Press.

Smith Patricia. 2008. Blood Dazzler. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press.

Teicher, Craig Morgan. 2008. Interview with Patricia Smith. Na-tional Book Foundation.

Triplett, Mike. 2015. Superdome exceeds 'wildest dreams' of stadium savior Doug Thornton 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. ESPN.

Wright, Jeffrey Cyphers and Tim Brown. 2008. Poetry Roundup.

This article was first published in the 2016 Louisiana Folklore Miscellany. Elizabeth Oxler is a folklore graduate student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.