Winner of the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize
These narrative poems celebrate the day-to-day lives of Black New Orleans and the rare magic in the culture. Vibrant with local history and color, these poems have a Black sensibility that reaches beyond boundaries, with folk sayings turned into polished verse. From Black talk to verse forms, Saloy never loses sight of the Black Creole Cultural roots of her community.
Mona Lisa Saloy captures the street idioms and culture of New Orleans that challenge the tourist misconceptions about that fabulous city. She also succeeds where many performance poets fail. These poems are music to the ear as well as on the page.
—Ishmael Reed, 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize judge
Southern poetry has long been a wonderful affair, a depiction of the heart’s struggle in that life way down there, all too often a white soiree, and male to boot, with poems as rigid as bankers’ suits, and change the grim subject of the day. But real poetry is so alive it sweeps along like the Mississippi in New Orleans, touching everything, its life and its will, knowable but not known. That’s why poems that please deeply and endure arise from place and character and forces, forging lives not always as we want them (though sometimes!), but as they have been and are. Mona Lisa Saloy’s prize-winning collection is black and female and southern and a literary event. The language is lively, the life is palpable, the observing eye is accurate and selective in distinctive ways, and the heart here is both true to the self and honest in its presentation. You don’t know New Orleans if you haven’t read this collection. You don’t know southern poetry if you haven’t read this book. You don’t know the fun serious poetry can be if you haven’t read Red Beans and Ricely Yours. Ms. Saloy does, yes she does.
—Dave Smith, Johns Hopkins University
Mona Lisa Saloy is not just a poet, she is a N’awlins woman. Her poems will put a smile on your face like a good bowl of gumbo. Some of them are better than oysters on fried bread. Mona Lisa is a woman with a Nat King Cole kiss of a name. Now I have her book of poems to hold in my hands. I don’t need hot sauce to make me shout—RED BEANS AND RICELY YOURS.
—E. Ethelbert Miller, Howard University
When she arrived unexpectedly on the heels of a mysterious visit from a midnight haint, her delighted father named her Mona Lisa and raised her in New Orleans in a house full of good love, good music, and good food. It should come as no surprise that her poems are as richly evocative as the taste of homemade gumbo and the sound of a second line band. Mona Lisa Saloy’s poems are love songs to family and freedom and the magic of the city that continues to define her work and her life. Red Beans and Ricely Yours is pure pleasure.
—Pearl Cleage, author of Babylon Sisters