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James Noël

James Noël

James Noël

(Haiti, 1978)
James Noël (1978, Haiti) is a poet, writer, and actor. One of the most important voices in contemporary Haitian poetry, he writes, in both French and Creole, to “empty his body of all words, to move forward and become lighter than paper".
His career as a poet was off to a flying start in 2005, when singer Wooly Saint Louis Jean set Noël’s poem 'Bon nouvèl/La Bonne Nouvelle' to music before his first collection was even out.
Since then, he has published a dozen poetry collections, a novel, and a children’s book. In his work he travels the world, sometimes casting it in a playful light, but just as often purposively rebelling against it.

Noël is very active in literary and artistic circles. He has edited a collection of 73 contemporary Haitian poets and founded Passagers des Vents, a residency program in Haiti for writers and poets from all over the globe. Together with visual artist Pascale Monnine he started the IntranQu’îllités magazine. His work has been awarded many prizes, and in 2017 he received the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contributions to Francophone literature.

The 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti was understandably fundamental to his writing. About this “accordion of death” he has written:

Under our feet, death keeps growling. Often my body keeps shaking, even when the earth no longer moves.

As a poet he often positions himself as a social seismograph, his poems mapping subcutaneous vibrations. Highly topical in this regard is his long poem 'La Migration des Mures', which tackles political issues through metaphor:

There’s no point demonising walls  The problem starts with T-brackets, amongst other kinds of geometric tools   Landlords, big and small, weigh very heavy on the harsh wall market  The first stone was cast when the T-bracket came about, walls were then imposed as the only impassible horizon

His poems testify to a passionate energy. That urge to live, and to fight, comes back again and again in his work, for example in the Kana Sutra collection, in which the poet studies all manner of roles: the poet as a man, as a human (or a tree, book, or bird!) and the almost cannibalistic way people behave against their fellow man. And although these poems constantly and sharply address key issues, they also find room for pure lyricism, beauty, and pleasure. Because if you ask Noël about the nature of poetry, he answers:

beautiful fruit that will burst into laughter
in the mouth’s juices
© Vicky Francken (Translated by Florian Duijsens)
Poèmes à double tranchant/Seul le baiser pour muselière. La Farandole, Parijs, 2005 (Mazères, Le Chasseur abstrait, 2009)
Le Sang visible du vitrier. Farandole, Port-au-Prince, 2006. (Vents d’Ailleurs, La Roque d’Anthéron, 2009.)
Bon Nouvel. Kopivit-L’action sociale, Port-au-Prince, 2009
Kabòn 47. Kopivit-L’action sociale, Port-au-Prince, 2009
Rectoverso (met Dominique Maurizi). Albertine, Paris, 2009
Quelques poèmes et de poussières. Albertine, Paris, 2009
Des Poings chauffés à blanc. Bruno Doucey, Paris, 2010. (Noroît, Montréal, 2010)
La fleur de Guernica. Vents d’Ailleurs, La Roque-d’Anthéron, 2010
Kana Sutra / Toutes ces villes qui se trompent de trottoirs. Vents d’Ailleurs, La Roque-d’Anthéron, 2011
La Migration des murs. Villa Médicis, Rome, 2012. (Galaade, Parijs, 2016)
Le Pyromane adolescent. Mémoire d’encrier, Montréal, 2013
Empreintes (met F. Mellier en E. Lamy). Imprimerie nationale, Paris, 2014
Majigridji. Legs, Delmas, 2017

Cheval de feu. Le Temps des Cerises, Montreuil, 2015

Belle merveille. Zulma, Paris, 2017
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère