November 17, 2010

In My Own Words...Michèle Voltaire Marcelin

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.

And so it was, as Neruda recounts.  Poetry summoned me. It called me by name and seduced me.  The solitary child, I  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 battalions...

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 Joseph 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.

Ars Poetica by Michèle Voltaire Marcelin

"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."

About Michèle Voltaire Marcelin:

Michèle Voltaire Marcelin  is a writer, poet, performer, and visual artist who has lived in Haiti, Chile and the United States. Her first novel “La Désenchantée" was published by Cidihca in 2006. Since then, she has published its Spanish translation "La Desencantada", and 2 other books of poetry and prose: "Lost and Found", and "Amours et Bagatelles".

Her work is also included in 2 poetry anthologies published in France: “Terre de Femmes” (Editions Bruno Doucey) and Cahier Haiti by Revue d’Art, Littérature et Musique (RAL,M).

Maya Angelou declared her poems "stunning" in an interview on OprahRadio:

And author Edwidge Danticat wrote: "The seventy-four poems in Michèle Voltaire Marcelin's "Lost and Found" are as sensual as they are lyrical, as tender as they are incandescent. Make sure you are sitting down, or better yet lying down, with your beloved and a glass of wine, as you read them. Your heart -- and your love life -- will never be the same."

Featured as one of the poets of the NewsHour on PBS (, she has performed her poetry solo and with jazz bands at the Brooklyn Museum, the MoCADA, La MaMa theatre, Cornelia Street Cafe, the United Nations, the Segal Theatre, and other venues. This Port-au-Prince born artist  writes in 3 languages and currently lives and teaches in New York. 

More information about Michèle and her work can be found on the websites:  and

Click on the following links to listen and watch Michele recite her poems:


Michèle Voltaire Marcelin will be reading at the Miami Book Fair International.

Saturday, Nov. 20, 10:00 a.m., Room 3314 (Building 3, 3rd Floor)

No comments: