Portrait of the actress

“A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound.”  ~  Charles Baudelaire.      Monday evening found me sitting for a portrait for photographer Leslie Jean-Bart.   As part of his latest creative series, Leslie requested each “sitter” come with a significant personal object. I chose a Venetian mask I […]

In my own words

“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 […]

A Painting and a Poem for Haïti

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” (Goethe) Well, on Wednesday, October 13th, the crowd at the MoCADA did all […]

Our grief will not silence us

“Granmè Mélina once told a story about a daughter whose father had died.  The daughter loved her father so much that her heart was shattered into a hundred pieces.  When it came time to plan for the jubilant country wake. which was once held the night before all funerals, the daughter wanted no part of […]

Goodbye Senhor Saramago

“I insist that everything is biography. Everything is life: lived, painted and written.” José Saramago Saramago is a wild herbaceous plant whose leaves, in difficult times, served as nourishment for the poor.  Saramago is also a literary genius. These definitions are not mutually exclusive since José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who died this morning, also […]

Welcome to Haïti

I’m home. This landscape is mine: the fruit merchants, the colored vans, the dust. The heat is mine; the late sun. I’m home.

Conversation with the "Phenomenal Woman"

Phenomenal Woman Maya Angelou & Michèle Voltaire Marcelin Life Gift: Sharing a blessed moment with Maya Angelou, reciting her poem “I Rise” with her: “You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Out of the huts of […]

love declaration

love declaration

In the gardens of my youth, trees were green and love was easy. Easy for me to feel, that is. That was before I realized others believed it was a war where all blows were allowed.

of wine and roses

I love reading wine reviews. While some wine critics write well – and I enjoy reading inspiring and lyrical prose- the affectations of others and their utter nonsense make me hoot with laughter. So I’m happy either way. Witness the story (told by wine critic Jonathan Meades) of an American nouveau-wine connaisseur who was visiting […]

bottled poetry

  “Wine is bottled poetry.” Robert Louis Stevenson Wine and poetry have always made great companions. In regards to poetry, I have willingly followed Baudelaire’s invocation: “Enivrez-vous, enivrez-vous sans cesse…Get drunk, get drunk all the time! On wine, on poetry or on virtue – just as you please…” and I’m very fond of the Omar […]


Smells can invoke memories, sexually arouse you, or even drive you mad… There are perfumes as fresh as children’s flesh, as sweet as oboes, as green as prairies, and others corrupted, rich and triumphant that sing the ecstasies of the mind and senses… writes French poet Baudelaire in Corrrespondances, while the great French perfumer Jacques […]


“All a poet can do today is warn” remarks the poet Wilfred Owen. Warnings come in varied ways. In “The People of the Other Village”, a beautiful, brutal poem written by American poet Thomas Lux in opposition to the Gulf War, these warnings come in the form of dark irony and cutting wit when he […]

la joie après la peine…

Le Pont Mirabeau Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine Et nos amours Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne La joie venait toujours après la peine Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure Les jours s’en vont je demeure Les mains dans les mains restons face à face Tandis que sous Le pont de nos bras passe Des éternels […]


by Billy Collins You are so beautiful and I am a fool to be in love with you is a theme that keeps coming up in songs and poems.There seems to be no room for variation. I have never heard anyone sing I am so beautiful and you are a fool to be in love […]

Mama Africa

Miriam Makeba died Sunday night of a heart attack after a concert in Italy. She was 76. It seems that she collapsed after singing her signature song Pata Pata. An enormous talent with a beautiful voice and a smile to match, she will not soon be forgotten. “I look at an ant and I see […]

I have a dream

  November 4th, 2008 “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will […]


I don’t know about you but I have such a wildness of butterflies fluttering around in my stomach, their buoyant force could make me float. Each carrying a “What if…?” thought. And lately, I have been waking up humming Nina’s tune. Can you wait for Wednesday? Because I can’t… “Can’t you see it Can’t […]

3Penny Opera

In 1976, the year I started studying at the Aaron Davis Center for the Performing Arts, Joe Papp of the N.Y. Shakespeare Festival staged a revival of “Three Penny Opera” at the Beaumont. It featured Raul Julia as the murdering, whoring, Macheath, prince of thieves in stinking, corrupt London. I loved the play and had […]

Happy Thursday?

Michele, Temar and Francesca Sometimes you don’t need a reason Not a birthday Not a holiday Just celebrating the day that is The friends that are New and old And the music that makes it all Allright…. Or as poet Lucille Clifton writes: come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me […]

The woman in my bed….

I woke up with a French tune this morning: La femme qui est dans mon lit…The woman in my bed. Written by Moustaki for Edith Piaf when they were lovers, it is a song of praise for the older woman (she was nearly 20 years older than him). It brought back memories of one of […]

Ah! petite….

Artwork: Elizabeth Campbell “Elle a vécu, celle qui portait deux nattes brunes et une croix en or au bout d’une chaîne. Elle a vécu, celle que sa maman venait border. Savais-tu , maman, que je me masturbais presque chaque soir? Un bout de couverture dans ma bouche étouffait mes grognements. La peur d’être par toi […]


I was oh, perhaps 9? the very first time I heard the word Fuck. Emmanuel, the school hunk, had cornered Caterina by the back stairs of Union School and said I want to fuck you. Fuck… Fuck… Fuck. I didn’t know what it meant but the intensity with which it was said stirred something in […]

my dear friends

My brother Leslie once came back from Brazil with a gift for me. A cassette tape. Remember these relics of another age? Remember that flimsy brown strip of magnetic tape that would melt in the summer, snap in the winter and unravel when in a bad mood? To save our music, we learned the now […]

Let me explain a few things…

Pablo Neruda is “the greatest poet of the twentieth century–in any language.” said Gabriel García Márquez Pablo and Gabo Explico algunas cosas (Let me Explain a Few Things), a poem written in fiery rage against what Franco’s troops had done to Madrid “And one morning, everything was burning” , is where Neruda traced his own […]