“And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.” (Neruda)
And so it was, as Neruda recounts. Poetry summoned me. It called me by name and seduced me. The solitary child I was answered her siren’s call and became her subject. I have loved her since. I loved the poets I met in pages of books before I knew any living ones. I loved their language, whispered or clamored; the way in which I felt my wings unfold, spread out and gather flying strength when I read poetry.
Why do I write? Because it is a summons as well. It is a “call and response” from me to me, from me to the world and from the world to me. A call to witness an event or a feeling. I wrote first because I fell in love; and as Plato said: At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. And I continued writing because I was to become a witness and testify to events that changed our world. I am a woman of color born in Haiti. These past months, with curses and catastrophes upon my island, it was difficult not to despair. Each day brought its share of disaster. Sorrows came not single spies but in batallions…
Then by chance I discovered these verses by French resistance poet René Char . That is what life does: sends us fragments of hope serendipitously, so we can go on when we think we cannot.
“Make haste to transmit your share of wonder, of rebellion, of goodness
so you are not lagging behind life
the one denied you everyday by people and things
the one you obtain
here and there some fragments of
at the end of merciless battles…”
( Common Presence)
So this is why I write. As a way to defy darkness, misery and fear, violence, treacheries, delusions. And what goodness and wonder and rebellion I have to share is my art. That is what we do as artists: we share our passion, our need to create beauty to respond to life’s cruelties, to let its mark be there on the edges of this harsh, violent world. Nothing is more powerful than beauty in a wicked world. It is the only thing that makes life tolerable.
Dostoevsky said “Beauty will save the world” and Russian poet Iosif Brodsky responded “Probably it is impossible to save the world already, but to save the separate man is always possible”. But the world consists of people, and if we each are able to reach just one?
“We are luminous, we human beings. We are alight in that we have been given a light through our creator, through a gift of nature…”
So we must share that light, combine it with other lights to dispel darkness and chaos. In a world filled with headlines of disasters and fear, we need to turn to art for a place to nourish the heart and soul. So against darkness and in haste, I write to share my light. Because…
“on days when all seems dark, when the world pours in and your pain blows words out of my mouth, i look at opened windows and running trains with a craving hard to explain, but i rush by quickly, eyes shut tight, and count my breaths, and when i catch a glimpse of myself, a talking shadow in full light, hair blowing and blind, i must seem, not knowing my left from my right, always lost, but as i stand here, in my age of reckoning, a woman at the end of her history, i tell you i know i have found myself. i have found happiness where i did not seek it and grief has come frequently when i did not expect it, and come to stay, like an unwelcome guest you cannot turn away, and it has marked me to allow my heart to break with tenderness and make me part of humanity. and i give thanks for the voice i have been given, for the little song i can sing, for the light i can add to everyone else’s, for i have tasted it all, the bitter, the sweet and what was forbidden me, but i am alive, and have learned to live in this world which is beautifully hopeless and hopelessly beautiful, and if i am remembered at all, it will be because whatever else is true or false, and because i have craved its light, i have unflinchingly faced love and embraced it.”
“Ars Poetica” by Michèle Voltaire Marcelin
(Artwork by Dixie Selden)
Click on this video link to sample Michèle’s live poetry performances.