64 Parishes


Poetry by Gian Smith

Selected by Louisiana Poet Laureate Mona Lisa Saloy

Published: February 28, 2022
Last Updated: May 31, 2022

Poetry by Gian Smith

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Eyewall of Hurricane Katrina from within before landfall, August 28, 2005.

Gian Smith is an important part of the glue that keeps the performing group Pass It On together.  Pass It On, one of the oldest continuous spoken-word groups in the Crescent City, is founded on the principles of the late great artist John Scott. Welcome to a New Orleans voice in verse embedded in honoring cultural contributors, naming traditions, and calling both the happy and the hard to the city.

—Mona Lisa Saloy


O’ Beautiful Storm

I got the Rain in my veins…

The flood water in my blood makes my heart beat harder.

I’ve got the scent of the death and decay in the wind

Sinking into my nose and under my skin.

She’s the music in my ears, and the mold in my soul.

Move with her like bellies to congo drums

Write a sonnet to her, serenade her, recite her a poem.

Bump her like bounce music or mellow into her like Marsalis.

Let her weave through your brain like a song has moved you

And you can stop the flow…

But don’t let her go.


Last night, on my knees I scrubbed and scraped

Katrina from the tiles of a house that would one day

Belong to my kids who’d have no idea there was a remain

Underneath the sofa, I had purposefully not wiped away.

Cause while Hugo and Andrew talked a good game

In the end all they did was ride the Gulf to the lake

And kick up a few waves and make a few trees shake

But Katrina had foresight and long term goals.

Bear her like ungratifying child labor of a stillborn

Answer to her, embrace her. Make passionate, steamy love to her til you moan.

Let her consume you on holidays and special events

Not meant to be spent alone.

Do what you must, but don’t let her go.


She’s Death’s greatest stage

She’s the 11th plague

She’s five men dead in a truck from a murderous rampage.

There is no fury like her rage hell bent.

The apocalypse heaven sent.

A city’s extinction level event.

She’s men’s residence changing homes,

Chickens coming home to roost again.

She’s man exalting science as defense

From God, being overthrown

She’s the perfect combination of wind, neglect

And Amir’s criminals in City Halls and black robes

Whose Congressional bills pass at levees expense,

Whose gavel smacks smash homes and crack domes.

Beat her to let her know you care.

Hate her on the streets in front of your friends for show.

Love her behind closed doors at home.

She’s a summer rain, a gentle breeze blown,

And an infamous name that our hearts now own.

O’ beautiful storm, I won’t let you go.


For the Culture

It’s the music for me.


Embedded in Armstrong

The hollow echo stretches from Congo Square

Past Jackson Square to the battle of New Orleans

Where Jordan Noble’s drumbeat protected soldiers from defeat,

To the present where P is establishing new industry.

Whether Tyler or Master, no master controls our masters.


It’s the history for me.

A Gumbo pot more American than apple pie

Crafted of rituals by Creole’s like Laveau.

Coffee on the go freed the enslaved, Rose Nicaud.

Entrepreneurship all along Bayou Road,

Thomy Lafon buying property of his own,

Big Chiefs getting pretty to mask on St Joes

It’s the Leaders for me.

The Last stop for Plessy before his arrest,

Effect rippling through times of civil unrest

Inspiring stances taken by New Orleans best.

Oretha Castle Haley staging protests and sit-ins

Dooky and Leah hosting meetings and cooking,

The way Dorothy Mae had Dutch cancelling Krewes

Had em sounding like Fats Domino singing the blues


It’s Tom Dent for me

Sunni Patterson and Maurice Ruffin for me

It’s Garret Morris, Anthony Mackie, and Wendell Pierce for me.


Under the Bridge for me

Second lines and Super Sundays for me

It’s Oshun, Femme Fatale, and the Zulu for me.


Mahalia Jackson for me

Buddy Bolden and Allan Toussaint for me

It’s the Marsalises, the Nevilles and the Bounce music for me.


It’s John Scott, The Carver and Treme for me

It’s Teedy, Marc, Ray and Sidney for me

It’s the Dome Patrol, and Mathieu and Fournette in the Superbowl for me


It’s for the simple fact that black history is New Orleans history for me.


New Orleans poet and filmmaker Gian Smith co-founded the Pass It On open mic series. He and his poetry have appeared in the HBO series Treme. His work has been included in school textbooks and collaborations with Tulane University and the New Orleans Pelicans. Smith also founded and directs the Black Film Festival of New Orleans.