Media Partners Printed books

I Am New Orleans

The Publishing Journey of the Greatest Anthology to touch my desk

By Abram Shalom Himelstein, editor-in-chief

Everything seemed to be lining up. The University of New Orleans Press was moving into the Earl K. Long Library, just two floors below the Marcus Christian Collection. And Kalamu was on the phone, talking about revisiting Christian’s iconic poem, “I Am New Orleans.” 

Since I started publishing at UNO, people had been steadily talking to me about Marcus Christian. Civil rights champion, amazing poet, dedicated publisher (and printer!), and trailblazing UNO professor. His printing press welcomes library patrons to the fourth floor. 

Then Kalamu sent the work. I was stunned by the breadth of talent. It felt sacred to be getting the chance to move something forward in this lineage, and every day a different poem would stop me in my tracks. 

We asked Weenta Girmay to work with a few of the writers, and together they wrought these (now viral) videos, and we were really rolling. 

Kristina Kay Robinson’s “Indian Red”

Marian Moore’s “Martha”

Sunni Patterson’s “My City Ain’t for Sale”

Marcus Christian’s “I Am New Orleans,” read by Sunni Patterson, Kalamu ya Salaam, and Marian Moore

Marcus Christian’s printing press.

When it came time to print, COVID was rampant, and we were working remotely. And as a result, the publisher (me) did the one thing that we are not supposed to do: become noticeable. We let forty of the advanced reader copies (with mistakes!) into the sales stream. After a round of apologies, the magnitude of the work began to speak again, and now we are looking at a multitude of spring events to celebrate. 

Seeing these pieces enter the world, I’m grateful for this work and for all of the poets who contributed to this powerful collection. 

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