Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Popular Poet Populist: Jean—Dany Joachim
Interview by Doug Holder
Well – I interviewed the Poet Laureate of Boston Sam Cornish, the Poet Laureate of Portland, Maine Steve Luttrell, and just recently the Poet Populist of the Republic of Cambridge, Jean—Dany Joachim. Both Jean and I teach at Bunker Hill Community College, and both of us are poets. One day perhaps I will be able to interview the Poet Laureate of Somerville if the city ever gets off its haunches. Jean Dany Joachim was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti. In his online bio it states "…his writing found its voice in the never-ending, complex reality of his country." Joachim is the author of " Chen Plenn-Leta", and his work has appeared in anthologies and numerous literary magazines. I talked with him on my Somerville Community Access TV show "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."
Doug Holder: So, as I said in the introduction it has been said that you found your poetic voice with the "never ending complex reality of your country." Explain.
Jean--Dany Joachim: The first poem that I wrote when I was 13 years old dealt with the reality of Haiti at the time. The poem was titled
"Good Morning." That poem was the first one that made me start writing. My writing dealt with Haiti, the land, the dreams, the aspirations, and the political trouble. Later I discovered poetry for the language. The Creole language. It is a beautiful language that has a lot to do with French. This is because for close to 200 years the French were in Haiti..
DH: You are the second Poet Populist in Cambridge. Tell us about the position.
JJ: 2007 was the first year Cambridge went with this concept. They did not create it; it was first started in Seattle. Seattle had the first "Populist" instead of the commonly named Poet Laureate. In 2007 I was one of the finalists for the position, and I was eventually selected. I wasn't even sure what the position was about when they called me in 2007 to tell me I was nominated. Peter Payackwas the first Poet Populist--before me.
DH: What is the difference between a Poet Laureate and a Poet Populist?
JJ: Bluntly speaking the Poet Populist is Cambridge. Cambridge must have its own way, so therefore it has the Poet Populist. ( Laugh) It's just a different name. It is a position for the promotion of POETRY and the art of words in the City of Cambridge, and even beyond.
DH: Do you think there has been a greater awareness of Haitian literature due to the tragic earthquake?
JJ: I think Haitian writers with a few exceptions are generally unknown in this country. I think because they write in French. There are very few presses that are translating Haitian writers. I wish more translation could happen. I wish more translation could happen.
DH: Is there any signature quality to Haitian writing?
JJ: In Haitian art there is a lot of vivid colors. This definitely comes out in the writing.
DH: Tell us about your City Night Reading Series.
JJ: It started more than 10 years ago. At Bunker Hill Community College in Boston I used to run a series titled" Sunset Poetry Series" It was a once a month series with readings from faculty and students. So after years doing it at the college; I thought why not do it outside. I originally wanted it to be nomadic, city to city. But I realized this would be a great deal of work. I had the series at UMass Boston, in Chelsea, and other venues until I found Cafe Luna in Central Square.
Four chairs sit
On a porch, they're waiting
Four chairs all dressed up
Sitting without a word
Four chairs of hope
In wait to be useful
Four chairs next to each other
Which are sometimes face- to- face
Four chairs of labor
Relieving the human tiredness
For chairs which cure
Four chairs observing
Life which ravels
Four chairs of silence
Four chairs in wait
To hang the words.
On the porch
The four chairs sit, they're waiting.