(March 14, 2014)

Professor takes part in selection committee for Poet Laureate

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary's Dr. Dana Kress, Professor of French and Chair of the Foreign Languages Department, took part in selecting the first Poète Lauréat de la Louisiane Française, Zachary Richard. The new honoree was selected by the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) in partnership with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) and the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism (CRT).

Richard was selected for the honorary two-year post (2014-2016) for his outstanding contributions in the field of poetry. Chosen on even years, the French language Poet Laureate's efforts will complement those of the English language Laureate, currently Ava Leavell Haymon, appointed in 2013 by Governor Bobby Jindal.

The selection committee, chaired by Dr. Dana Kress, Centenary College of Louisiana's Foreign Languages Department Chair and LEH Humanist of the Year for 2011, and composed of Darrell Bourque, poet laureate emeritus; Charles Larroque, representing CRT; Michael Sartisky, representing the LEH; and community leaders Brenda Mounier, Mavis Frugé, and Amanda LaFleur, voted unanimously in favor of Richard because of his pioneering efforts to promote French culture in Louisiana through his poetry and music.

Of his three volumes of poetry, Faire Récolte is considered a watershed moment in the birth of Louisiana letters. This collection inspired an entire generation of Louisiana poets and stands among a handful of works that have given birth to an explosion of creative writing in French and Creole speaking communities. Richard realized very early how special Louisiana's French linguistic heritage is and through his poetry shows us that French is more than just an oral language.

The advantages of recognizing a poetic voice that speaks for a significant part of Louisiana's citizenry will accrue beyond CODFIL to the entire population of the state. Culture has become an important component of Louisiana's economic development strategy. Richard's passionate and eloquent articulation of his ideas in unexpected forms offers a new platform from which the uniqueness of Louisiana may be communicated.

Richard will be officially recognized as the French Language poet Laureate of Louisiana at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities annual Awards Ceremony on Saturday, March 29, at 12:30 p.m. in the Audubon Tea Room in New Orleans.