Poets in Paradise The Modern Day Seychellois Poets

Seychelles, an island known for its natural environment and exemplary green conservation stance, is also home to a small group of poets, who write more about life and the living environment than nature. Peter Pierre-Louis, himself a poet, provides an insight to the modern day Seychellois poets.

Contemporary Seychellois poetry is evolving slowly but progressing in a positive direction as new poets emerge and expand the horizons of poetry in the Seychellois Kreol Language. In 2005 the National Arts Council created the Poetry Workshop in order to help poets acquire some experience of contemporary developments in poetry which has made many poets move away from classic English poetry and explore issues that are more relevant to their lives and times.

Helda Marie won first prize for the Antoine Abel Prize, 2008 -2010, the most prestigious literary award in Seychelles, with her poetry collection, “All the Cries in My Mind (Tou Sa Bann Leokri dan Mon Lespri)”. Helda’s poems usually express deep sentiments in evocative language and her wide Kreol vocabulary helps the reader become emotionally involved in what she writes. A policewoman by profession, Helda is a prolific poet who has been writing poetry for many years.

Marie Clarisse has only published her poems in newspapers and magazines to date, although she has already won two poetry prizes for her work. This is not unusual in Seychelles because there are limited publishing opportunities for poets. In 2009, her book of children’s poems, “Let me Admire the Colour of your Smile”,won the poetry prize in The Rodolphine Young Award for Children’s Literature. These lyrical poems recreate the experience of childhood in Seychelles a few decades ago in the ‘70s. Her next collection of poems entitled, “The Value of Who We Are”, won second place in the Antoine Abel Prize for poetry in 2008-2010, and is yet to be published. Her poems can be both lucid as well as obscure, depending on the issues being addressed, which often relate to the concerns of women in contemporary Seychelles. Marie’s poems gain strength from a rich and extensive Kreol vocabulary and power of expression acquired from an authentic and close encounter with Seychellois Kreol from early adolescence, while growing up before the introduction of our Seychellois Kreol orthography and the standardization of our language into the modern Kreol we now speak. She is a songwriter and recording artist with an album entitled, “Cyclone”, to her name. Marie is the current chairperson of Lardwaz (Writing Tablet), the Association of Seychellois Poets. “One Day This Cloud will Fade Away”, is an apt title for Stephanie Joubert’s unusual book of poems addressing the issue of child abuse from the perspective of the child. A counsellor by profession, Stephanie has sourced her own encounters with the problems of young adults to create a highly commendable book which sheds light on an issue that most poets would consider unpoetic. Yet, her stark poems, written in very sharp clear images, continue to linger long afterwards in the mind of the reader. This characteristic of Stephanie, whose poems are very restrained and minimalist in style, contrasts with that of her more colourful fellow poets of the current generation. Stephanie is well-known for reciting her poems in many arts events, both in Seychelles and in the region. her involvement in Lardwaz and the post of assistant editor of a new poetry magazine entitled Paz Par Paz, aims to disseminate Seychellois poetry in Kreol, English and French to a wider audience.

Georgette Larue is one of the most prolific poets in this group of contemporary Seychellois poets. Her poems are often opaque, even if they deal with themes of family, youth, people, and social relationships observed with a sharp eye and a somewhat ref lective and analytical turn of mind. Her book “Sweet Anger” relates to the idea that people are often unable to understand what it is that makes them who they are, and the poet believes she is able to point this to them through the medium of her poems.

Colbert Nourrice, who is a visual artist as well as a poet, has been interested in poetry from his early years. He joined the poetry workshop at the National Arts Council to become one of the most important poets in the new generation of Seychellois poets. His poems are issuebased and he often writes about social and historical problems from the perspective of someone who has experienced problems which have affected him deeply. Colbert teaches art at the International School and is also a keen saxophonist.

His yet unpublished volume of poems,“Footprints”, is an examination of slavery in the history of Seychelles and is also the first work that is directly concerned with an important part of the country’s past, in the same way that,“One Day This Cloud will Fade Away”, by Stephanie Joubert addresses the current issue of child abuse. Both these poets are actually making poetry an instrument of social change and are also very positive in the way they write about negatives without inciting any similar response from the reader. Their poems make the reader ref lect and act in a way to defend rather than contradict the facts, which is the way to look at issuebased poetry that is now emerging in Seychelles.

Jude Ally, another poet from the poetry workshop, is a somewhat fiery poet in spite of his quiet demeanor. His poems reference issues from an oblique angle, and he often sees people unlike the way they perceive themselves. His book entitled,“Dead Fish”, as yet unpublished, is a challenging read because his poems are very different from that of his fellow poets. Jude is a visual artist, art teacher, and a recording artist who has already launched his first CD album entitled, “Traffic”.

Peter Pierre-Louis has recently published a poetry collection, “Journey without a Suitcase”, and also in several magazines and newspapers, and is the editor of a new poetry magazine entitled, “Paz Par Paz”.