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Vendanges. George Dessommes.Edited by Margaret E. Mahoney.

ISBN: 978-0-9793230-0-3.

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Vendanges. George Dessommes. Edited by Margaret E. Mahoney.

From the vantage point of the 21st century it is easy to see how the vast majority of nineteenth-century Louisiana poets followed the path created by French writers from across the Atlantic. Romanticism, Realism, symbolism, and all the other –ismes of the period established deep roots within the poetical productions of Louisiana’s francophone poets. Often, the result is a pale but worn reflection of continental sophistication that fails to draw upon the vitality of a nascent American culture. It may be true that Adrian Rouquette, in his Savanes : Poésies américaines, describes the vastness of the cypress forests and endless prairies of rippling sawgrass, but he seems to echo Chateaubriand who never saw the Louisiana wilderness. Unfortunately, Louisiana’s francophone poets considered themselves French rather than Louisianian and this partially explains why their writings today seem foreign to a Franco-American public. Among these poets, only Camille Thierry dared to create a poetic voice that was profoundly human, French, and American all at once—and he lived in exile in Bordeaux! Born a generation after Thierry, George Washington Dessommes was the last, but the greatest, of all the Creole poets from New Orleans, and he gave voice to the distress of the last Creoles as their culture was being engulfed by the waves of Americanization championed by Reconstruction. Dessommes never published a book of poetry: the texts gathered here, corrected and brought forth by Margaret E. Mahoney, appeared in a variety of New Orleans publications during the last quarter of the century. Thanks to her careful work, Louisiana can discover and study for the first time one of her best poetic voices.