Here's another segment of NOW SHOWING where I interview artists who have played a role in my work/inspired me.
I've known her all my life. We used to joke around during recess in elementary school. We used to make fun of people and flat out dominate the school with our cool selves. But when we both left elementary school, we parted ways only to find our try passion for art. And when I discovered what a true artist and magician of the written word she became, I was blown away. Her name is Kira Paulemon, Haitian poet and writer. Her poetry deals with the modern teenage problems. It focuses on culture, love, and heartache. She is the modern day diary and her words tell vivd stories of her life experiences-- and of other people's experiences.
So here's my conversation with my childhood friend, Kira.
Steven: How did you get started in poetry?
Kira Paulemon: I always loved writing and reading since I was a little girl but I started to seriously write poetry after the earthquake. It was really because of the earthquake actually, I had a partially working laptop and a bunch of thoughts so I started writing. I wrote in french at first but began to write in English because it really felt as if I was somewhere else, I wanted to escape the reality of that time so I wrote in a different language. The earthquake was a singular experience and it made me reconsider so many things and I felt as if all these thoughts could not stay in my head and had to go on paper. The first time I realized that what I wrote could have an impact on people was when my cousin was going through a very rough patch of her life and all I could do to support her was write her a poem. Afterwards I went to the stationary shop and got myself a notebook which I took with me everywhere I went and that's how I got really committed to writing and knew that I was a poète dans l'âme!
S: Favorite poet and why?
KM: I don't think I have a favorite poet but I do have favorite periods of poetry. I love the poets of the 19th century because of the expansion of romanticism and how artists such as Baudelaire, Hugo, Oscar Wild just let their hearts speak for them and inspired me to do the same, but I also love love love the poets of the 1920's-- that's the era of surrealism and the artists were very much into breaking barriers and braking societal rules and just experiencing life not only as humans but also as artists. It was a decade of a lot of sexual exploration and artistic exploration as well and I just really liked how cool and surreal (pun intended) these artists were. These eras are my favorite and basically sum up my art or at least what I try to do when I write which is to let myself go emotionally and at the same time break all rules in order to create something surreal but very emotionally true.
S: What influences your writing? What do you write about the most?
KM: Basically everything. Two people dancing, a leaf falling on the floor, a rainy day, a traditional song, anything! Humanity influences my writing, I love seeing people be human and not be afraid of that.Of course my mood plays a role in what I write but my muse really is the world, there's so much poetry in everything we do, we just need to notice it. I've written a few pieces (prose and verse) about issues that mean a lot to me such as racism, sexual assault, alcoholism, and even the hate culture developing in the world right now but I write a lot about love; not an idealistic portrait of love, but more like love through things, love through pain, love through fear, love through nature. I also write a lot about lust and sex because I feel like desire should come with intimacy and it's something that is being made common through mainstream media nowadays. What I write seems like it's about my feelings but a lot of it is about other people and things that I notice and things that I see and that I believe have poetry inside of them.
S: Do you remember the first time you read a poem?
KM: Surprisingly I don't. My oldest memory of poetry goes back to middle school when we would learn poems and tell them at our end of the year show and all I always remembered was finishing the presentation with "Poeme de Jacques Prevert" and "Poeme de Victor Hugo" which translates to "Poem of Jacques Prevert" and "Poem of Victor Hugo" (I'm pretty sure you remember too Steven haha!). And ever since I've been writing I always wondered what it would feel like to hear in 15 years or so my daughter or son saying at their end of the year show "Poeme de Kira Paulemon". Working to get there!
S: What role does Haiti play in your poetry?
KM: As much as my poetry is focused on feelings, I certainly have an emotional tie to Haiti which translates in my poetry. I am very inspired by the environment around me, but also by the people around me. I incorporate a lot of little details such as the color of the sky or a reference to the earthquake or even a sentence in french or creole in order not to evade from where I come from. Although I feel like I'm more comfortable writing in English, I listen to a lot of old and new Haitian love songs and pay attention to the lyrics and the poetry that flows through it, I've read a lot of Haitian poets such as Franketienne which really showed me that language is a barrier that can certainly be overcome because I was always afraid that writing in English would take out the Haitian part of the artist that I am. Leaving for college inspired a lot of poems in which I talk about being different not only physically but also mentally; growing up in the Caribbean and being sent to a place where 45 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a warm and beautiful day was definitely different for me and I had to always mentally go back home in order to keep sane and to keep writing. So Haiti is basically the place where the best aspect of the poet/writer in me comes out, get its inspiration from and can create. Haiti is my safe place if you will.
S: Top 3 fave poems you've written?
KM: I love the poem "Café" (see above) because it followed me around until I actually wrote it down, I had these words in my head for a good amount of time and I woke up one morning and wrote it down and it felt just right, the moment the words touched the paper they left me alone haha so I really feel like it was a necessity to write this poem. It had to exist.
"The poets" poem I wrote quite recently and it was the first time that I felt like I wrote something really beautiful in a while, the whole description through poetry and through poets who've inspired me really made me proud of that piece and I felt like it was a powerful thing to say that someone is poetry. I'm really proud of this one!
"Rain", I really love because of it's simplicity, reading it almost sounds like a a summer-ish song to me. Love in this poem is not restrained by anything and if it is, the people feeling it are certainly not.
S: Any advice for poets/writers like you?
KM: Two things:
1- Believe in your art!! Believe that it can touch someone if it gets to them, that what you write matters, even if you are your only reader never stop writing. Don't kill the writer in you because of people who don't understand what you write or who don't feel what you feel.
2- Look around you, specially to the poets, don't be afraid of seeing poetry or a story in the sound of the beach or in the laughter of a baby. Look around you and talk to people, there's poetry everywhere I swear, and if this world seems a little too much for you, look for the poem inside of you. I remember not writing for months because I was thinking "I have to write something, I have to write something" and then I just looked around and it was as if bits of poems were just scattered around so look around, inside and out, there's poetry everywhere! You just have to find it.
S: Where do you wanna go with poetry? What's your next move?
KM: I want to publish books! I also want to do an exposition of poetry on canvas because I like visual arts and I feel like sometimes the written arts are often forgotten in the artistic world. It's something I haven't quite had the courage yet to plan, this is because there's a part of me that's still afraid of the way the public might react but it'll happen one day! I am currently working on a book but I keep changing the poems I want to include, it will hopefully be done by the end of the summer. No matter what I end up doing after college I want to take poetry with me, I want to do a lot more prose and reflections on social issues that matter a lot to me like sexual assault, racism, discrimination between social classes (which is a BIG BIG BIG issue that bothers me a lot in Haiti). I really just want to take my poetry to a new artistic level but I also want to use it to fight or get more attention on certain problems in the world.
Kira's humility, drive, and passion for her craft is what drew me to her work. Every line, every prose has soul. The kind of soul that fuels creative thinking and creative aura. Her artistry is hard to find. I can't wait to say, one day, "see that poet, lol she shared a sandwich with me at lunch when we were 12."