Getting to know Leopold Figaro and his new book The colored seasons
When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
In elementary school, I studied and memorized poetry to recite in front of class. Our grades depended on us learning and presenting 15 to 20 poems a year. I also wrote poetry for high school assignments. I still remember my first poem. It was a french assignment and my teacher, at the time, liked it so much he published it in the school journal (Cap-Eko);
Sometime later, a few friends and I decided to form a group that would meet every week and create what we called an apology of art, Vol-Art, and so I wrote more often. From then on, I think, I really fell in love with poetry and saw the real power of it. Poetry was no longer just a form of art for me but also a way to express my feelings/thoughts.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I wouldn’t say that I have a routine really. I write words down on a piece of paper as often as I can. Some are more whole than others but I work and work on them, playing with the words until I feel the poem is complete. It’s hard to write every day when you work full time, though. Sometimes I spend days without being able to write anything on paper- the muse is reticent from time to time.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
My poemscome from anything and everything. An image, a sound, a feeling, an idea, the absence and presence of someone, a glance from a stranger on the train, desire, fantasy, a memory, a phrase that I’ve read or heard, anger, love, laughter, a song, etc. There is always something to work with, always something beautiful about it. Something so normal to one person can seem far out and amazing to someone else. Poetry is about everything. A stone can come to life and change into a flower.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
I wouldn’t say that I have been influenced by writers, but more so by the literary movements that some writers have created. For example, we have Spiralism- established by great Haitian writers Franketienne, Rene Philoctete and Jean-Claude Fignole. Whenever I read works from these writers it’s like I can feel their words coming to life. Then we have Negritude which- created by Leopold Sedar Senghor, Aime Cesaire and Leon Damas- promoted the black heritage and the black identity. And lastly, the Surrealism movement brought on by Andre Breton and Jean Cocteau. These literary movements, and more, have influenced the way I write, the way I see art itself, and the way I see life.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book? etc.
This new collection went through different arrangements and titles before i finally settled on, what I think, is a very suitable one. ‘The Colored Seasons’ can be tied to its contents in several different ways depending on who you are and how you interpret my work. One can view the title as simply representing different colors. Another can view the title as representing the fact that each poem has its own theme and the themes reflect the seasons in a year. And yet another can view the title as representing black culture.
Read a sample poem from The Colored Seasons and view a video recording here:
What is joy but
Broken words written on the sand,
Fantasies found in the flaws of your palms,
And black roses soaking up the rays in the gardens of heaven.
What is joy but falling in love with the thrill,
The thrill of stopping time
While waiting on the Red Line
Just to see her smile…