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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

August 29, 2007

NOLA after Hurricane Katrina: two years treading water

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 7:45 pm

Two years ago today, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, including the City of New Orleans, Louisiana. Americans have found many ways to remember our nation’s worst natural disaster and the bureaucratic, municipal and personal disasters that continue in its wake, as the rest of us continue our lives.If you’re looking for some thoughtful commentary and coverage of the two-year anniversary, you might try National Public Radio’s week-long series, “The Katrina Effect,Two Years Later: Katrian’s Legacy“,” where “NPR reports on the state of efforts to rebuild homes, towns and lives.” Interesting features include:

  • New Orleans Suffers Crisis in Mental Health Care“from All Things Considered. (did you know New Orleans Parish had 240 hospital psychiatric beds before Katrina, and only 30 now?)
  • President Bush Marks Hurricane Katrina Anniversary” (Aug. 29, 2007) – shall we say, not without controversy?
  • Has America ‘Abandoned’ New Orleans?” At Talk of the Nation, August 29, 2007, people are focusing on historian Douglas Brinkley’s op/ed piece, “Reckless Abandonment” (Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2007) explains why he feels that New Orleans is a case of “reckless abandonment.” Brinkley argues that the government’s “policy of inaction” may set a dangerous precedent for future disasters, saying: “Let’s, for once, put New Orleans on the front burner. After all, Katrina exposed all the ills of urban America — endemic poverty, institutionalized racism, failing public schools and much more. New Orleans is just a microcosm of Newark and Detroit and hundreds of other troubled urban locales. How we deal with New Orleans’ future will tell us a lot about our nation’s future.”

For lots more on this topic, read Brinkley’s book “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

  • At Blog of the Nation, you can join the talk on whether we’re/they’re “Running in Place in NOLA” (At Blog of the Nation (Aug 29, 2007), in the efforts to rebuild New Orleans.

This morning, a tanka (5-line Japanese-form poem) by Janet Lynn Davis at Magnapoets JF weblog, reminded me that I really wanted to recall what I was feeling two years ago as the Katrina disaster unfolded. Re-posting some of the poems I wrote at the time was an eye-opener, but reading my weblog commentary was even more of a reminder of shared humanity and disappointment in our government. I’m going to reprint my posting of September 1, 2007 again today, together with a happier one that featured the words and poems of Prof. David G. Lanoue of Xavier University of New Orleans, talking of his return to his home in February 2006. David Lanoue is one of our Honored Guest Poets, and is much-acclaimed for the 8000 translations he has made of the poems of Japanese Haiku Master Kobayashi Issa.

GW: “the check’s in the mael(strom)” (originally published Sept. 1, 2005)

Haiku is rarely about politics or anger (on the surface at least). Neither is its cousin senryu, which focuses on human nature. Usually, that’s fine with me, but today it leaves me frustrated, as I put together this pre-holiday weblog posting. (“Death and Lawlessness Grip New Orleans,” NYT, Sept. 2, 2005)


Like Prof. Althouse, I try to be evenhanded, even when looking at people whose politics are far different from my own. Of course, evacuation and rescue could not have been performed in a day. But, I must say that those who want us to believe that this Administration simply has a public relations problem with the Katrina Aftermath — that the President simply hasn’t found the right words yet — are cutting Mr. Bush far too much slack.


Unfortunately, I believe that the President’s response to Katrina shows all to well both his willingness to mistake his intended outcomes for reality and his tendency to use wishful thinking and rosy scenarios instead of the truth when speaking to the American people. More important, I believe the lack of sufficient planning to deal with unevacuated New Orleans residents who happen to be very poor and also black shows an inability to empathize with their plight (in normal times or times of crisis). (See NYT,A Can’t-Do-Government,” by Paul Krugman, Sept. 2, 2005).



waving from rooftops –
another party
in the French Quarter?

convention center —
potty parity
in New Orleans

two days
after the hurricane –
tears for strangers

treading water:
“keep your chin up”
the President says

[Sept. 2, 2005]



I wish a safe and pleasant Labor Day weekend to all of f/k/a’s friends and visitors — but I hope that Katrina Fatigue won’t put its victims out of the minds of the lucky ones who only know the aftermath from tv or the internet. Everything should look at little different this year.

LanoueSelf one haijin’s return to New Orleans: David Lanoue” (originally published, Feb. 17, 2006)

Yesterday, I asked professorpoetauthortranslator David Lanoue if he would share his reactions to returning to New Orleans with us. Here, unedited, is his reply, including a few haiku/senryu on the subject:

From David Lanoue, Feb. 15, 2006:

her pen dries up
she blames

New Orleans is a tale of two cities. I live Uptown, which didn’t flood seriously for the most part and is now a thriving area. The main signs of Katrina are the absence of the St. Charles streetcar (expected to be back in service by this December), the absense of many trees (the shady avenue isn’t as shady as it once was), and the presence of legions of Mexicans pounding on rooftops and hauling trash. I’m getting plenty of practice speaking Spanish.

after the hurricane
the shady avenue

My worst Katrina complaint is that my landlady raised our rent +$500. But I
count myself very, very lucky. I have friends and colleagues who lost jobs
possessions, and homes.

The other city is grim indeed: vast swaths of neighborhoods lie vacant, trashed, molding, unlivable. I have friends living in FEMA trailers and holing up in the upstairs rooms of houses with gutted first floors. The feeling in those neighborhoods is depressing, desolate. And the looting continues.


One of my friends was all set to move into her new FEMA trailer yesterday, when she discovered that someone had stolen the electric meter (with no neighbors around, it’s hard for the first returners to get a foothold). But she’s happy to “have” a trailer. Months ago, one was put in her yard by a FEMA contractor, and the trailor was stolen before she ever saw it. (Or, the contractor lied about delivering it; you decide who to believe.)

the city recovers
by restaurant

The most hopeful sign of life and rebuilding is the return of the university students: to Tulane, Xavier (where I teach), Loyola, SUNO… With their return–blessed legions of kids with backpacks on bicycles–more restaurants are reopening; more coffee houses are extending their hours. The students are consumers and they supply the workforce of waiters and dish washers (which, by the way, is a high-paying job these days, given the labor shortage).


Everyone’s hoping for a monumental Mardi Gras. Having lived here 25 years,
I’d grown jaded to Carnival in recent years, seizing the opportunity of days
off to travel elsewhere. This year’s different. I plan to attend every parade; to party in the French Quarter till dawn; to shake the hands of, or plant a kiss on, every out-of-towner I can grab. The City of New Orleans is open for business. Come on down!

blown away by the hurricane
every stripper
I knew

– all poems by David G. Lanoue

tiny check His coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans has made Ernie the Attorney Svenson and his weblog even more renown. Here’s my plea to David Lanoue to put up a weblog and regularly share his thoughts and poetry on the rebirth of New Orleans with his friends and fans in the haijin community.

Let me leave you on this two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with three poems by Master Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue:

in the mud
after the flood, one rose
of Sharon

in the flood
its karma is strong…
flying locust


evening moon– katydid
surviving the flood
a katydid


update: Aug. 30, 20007: Today’s article by Adam Nossiter for the New York Times article, “Commemorations for a City 2 Years After Storm” (NYT, Aug. 30, 2007), dated-lined New Orleans, begins “This city remembered Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary Wednesday with sadness, hurt and flashes of anger over a recovery that has returned it to only a portion of its former self.” It captures a variety of moods with brief quotes from many residents of New Orleans.

See Shane Gilreath‘s commemorative Katrina haiga at MagnaPoetsJF.  



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