Red Beans and Ricely Yours

Mona Lisa Saloy


Winner of the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize

2006 Annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award for Poetry

These narrative poems celebrate the day-to-day lives of Black New Orleans and the rare magic in the culture.

Dr. Gary Clark interviews Mona Lisa Saloy

Cultural significance of red beans and rice

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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




Red Beans and Ricely Southern
Word Works

Back on the Block
This Poem is for You My Sister
My Mother’s the Daughter of a Slave
For Frank Fitch
Southern Sisters
Louisiana Log
A Few Words on My Words
I Had Forgotten the Loud

Shotgun Life
Shotgun Life I: Home
Shotgun Life II: Sonnet
Shotgun Life III: Today
Shotgun Life IV: Section 8, 2003
Shotgun Life V: Rembering D
Shotgun Life VI: Roots, 200 Years, Louisiana Purchase
Shotgun Life VII: Old School, Circa 1960

Red Beans and Ricely Creole Quarters
Nat King Cole Babies and Black Mona Lisas
My Creole Daddy I
Daddy’s Philosophy II
Daddy Poem III: New Orleans Then
Daddy Poem IV
For Daddy V
On My Block
Parochial Product
My Cousin My Brother
French Market Morning
French Market Friend
Recycling Neighborhood Style
Villanelle for Voodoo
The Ballad of Marie LaVeau
The Last Mile
A Taste of New Orleans in Haiku
Summer in New Orleans
On Writing

Black Creole Love
This Afternoon...
Email: Hey Now
Distant Lover Poem
When We…
The First 30 Days
Charm Fails Death
Deuces Running Wild
Telling Poem
Like Langston Hughes Did

Red Beans and Ricely Black
Song for Elder Sisters
Mother with Me on Canal Street, New Orleans
For My Brothers
jim crow
End Notes
N Word
We’ve Come This Far


About the Author



Mona Lisa Saloy won the 2006 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award in Poetry and the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. Dr. Saloy has a chapter in the collection of essays, Living Blue in the Red States. She is associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Dillard University. She received her PhD in English and MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University and her MA in creative writing and English from San Francisco State University.


This poet of New Orleans excels at storytelling.… There’s this extraordinary sense of place. It is the dominant theme: the importance and significance of place caught up in and creating identity and a sense of being. For New Orleans is a way of life—a religion, a way of being, a unique and extraordinary cultural way of existing within the context of racial oppression and poverty.

Chicken Bones: A Journal

Far from the many neo-formalist and l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e winners of other contests that year, Saloy’s is a plain spoken meander through New Orleans neighborhoods, one front porch at a time.… For those who remember the pre-disaster new Orleans and miss it…for those who delight in a family history honestly portrayed, Mona Lisa Saloy’s Red Beans and Ricely Yours will be a warm, familiar read.


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