Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the Road: Emma Wilson Emery's Lovely Louisiana

Spanish moss haunt the trees in this Louisiana bayou.

The Bar None Group literary roadtrip now heads east from Texas to Louisiana. Bridging the two states is Emma Wilson Emery. A native of Texas, Emery was the first Poet Laureate of Louisiana in 1942. A post she held until her death in 1970. Her best known poem Lovely Louisiana was once set to music by Oscar J. Fox — a "composer of cowboy songs."

Lovely Louisiana

Let me live in Louisiana
Where the winding bayous flow,
Where mocking birds sing all night long
And the wild azaleas grow;
Where magnolia blooms are ghostly white
When the moon above rides high and bright,
Where voices are crooning with delight
In lovely Louisiana.

Let me hear the forest singing
To the melody of years,
As it sang to hearts of long ago
In their laughter and their tears;
Where stately pines and sycamore
And age-old oaks on the sandy shore
Will whisper their secrets evermore
In lovely Louisiana.

Let me live in Louisiana
Where the wild geese furl their wings
Near the trapper's hut in the trembling marsh
And the upland's crystal springs;
Where faithful souls of a sturdy race
Still pray to God through His loving grace.
In the whole wide world I have found no place
Like lovely Louisiana.

— Emma Wilson Emery

In discovering Emma Wilson Emery and her poetry the Bar None Group was surprised that information on Emery was hard to come by and at best repetitive and derivative. The Louisiana Historical Association has the most comprehensive online biography of Emery and it is a scant 20 line paragraph of commas and semi-colons.

Conversely, the Emma Wilson Emery Papers at Louisiana State University consists of 287 items that "include copies of published poems and articles, newspaper clippings pertaining to her literary and social activities, photographs, and two scrapbooks containing poetry and other writings."

Most sources have Emma Wilson Emery as the author of three books: Velvet Shadow (1934), Bleeding Heart and Rue (1937) and Aunt Puss and Others. The Bar None Group has also discovered Songs of Victory: Verses Old and New from 1944 attributed to her. As Women's History Month draws to a close it is worth noting that this incredible figure of American arts and letters seems to have been forgotten with the passage of time.

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