POKONINON is the very first collection published by agneau pimenté, a Guadeloupean poet who has been active on social networks for over ten years. Together we look back at his background, his experimenting with free verse and the message he wishes to deliver with Pokoninon.
agneau pimenté is a play on words. Just as Boris Vian gave birth to his avatar Bison Ravi, agneau pimenté is the alias that hides the man. Wearing his eternal red hat, the poet has a bloody writing style and wants to set off the language.
« French was not my strong point. I always had my head in books but rather in atlases. I started with graffiti and drawing. Writing came later as a refuge after being exiled to Metropolitan France for my studies. At first, I wrote for myself and without any real purpose, but it allowed me to create a world for myself and to really start expressing myself. »
It was only later that something clicked. agneau pimenté studied in the United States where his teachers encouraged him to practice his writing, but above all, to believe in his talent. However, it wasn’t until 2010, when he moved to London, that agneau pimenté’s adventure really began with an eponymous blog. For the artist, words are powerful, especially when they are used to concoct poetry.
« Writing is my drug, my source of energy. It’s a valve that keeps me going. I like to play with sounds, with punctuation to create free verses with various levels of depth. »
Boris Vian, Dany Laferrière, Guy Debord and Saez are among the authors who have had a real influence on his art, which underneath its nonchalant exterior, offers an acerbic criticism of the world we live in.
«Boris Vian is surrealism. Laferrière has that punk rock aspect that I recognise myself in. L’énigme du retour opened up a lot of things in me, helped me gain confidence. Bukowski is less of an influence, but I appreciate his relationship to the non-finality of your work. You don’t have to finish a story for it to mean something. I leave the finality to the reader. »
Despite his international and cosmopolitan experience – the poet is based in London – agneau pimenté remains attached to his motherland, Guadeloupe; roots that he continues to nurture.
« We don’t realise how much talent we have, how strong we are… we shouldn’t lack confidence, we don’t need anyone’s permission! »
Ten years after posting his first prose online, agneau pimenté is ready to open a new chapter with Pokoninon. The book is a collection of carefully selected writings revised for the occasion.
Pokoninon: naming the unnameable
Pokoninon is what has not yet been named in Guadeloupean Creole, as if stopped before the creative process is fully completed. But Pokoninon has nothing to do with the content of a collection with caustic overtones that puts a definite finger on the ills of the society that we share.
« I was looking for a title and I have this series of poems called Pa ni non 1, 2, 3, etc. One of them is called Pokoninon. It’s a sound I like so I thought why not? Is it flippant? A little bit. But mostly, it piques the readers’ curiosity. We’re losing our capacity for amazement. That’s what I wanted to touch. And then a title in creole when I write mostly in French… for me, it’s strong, it’s Guadeloupe! »
Pokoninon is a framework. The texts, divided into three main parts, reconcile the distance between the reality of everyday life, the immediately visible, and the implicit that surreptitiously swarms beneath the surface. The collection is a representation of an urban and collective Caribbean experience seen through the prism of the artist.
First, there is Dark Matter, an ode to astrophysics, a field that fascinates the author. An allegory for this osteocolla that engulfs each of our interactions with the world.
« To this day, we don’t really know what dark matter is. All we know is that it’s there, it exists but we can’t see it. »
RomEntisme puts our loving behaviours under the microscope.
« To be in love is to be centred on oneself, what one feels. This creates a kind of injunction, a demand for reciprocity, whereas there is a whole world between your reality, the truth and the reality of others.»
Finally, Urbanalisation focuses on the urban fact in an effort to poetise the society of the spectacle through the Black experience. Perhaps the most political of the three chapters, Urbanalisation explores this distance-trust relationship generated by large cities that offer us a false sense of security. agneau pimenté also creates a paradox of urban exoticism.
« For us Caribbean people, the exoticism of the fine sandy beaches that we are sold is an everyday occurrence. Our exoticism is big cities. »
What the author attempts in Urbanalisation is a slow deconstruction of the mechanisms of our society as a man – how to live as a black man in a white supremacist, capitalist society where the most important question remains that of choice. Do we have a choice but to play the game?
I asked agneau pimenté to share some of his favourite lines from his collection.
Mount of Merchants | Urbanalisation
All this is bland nothing to marvel at anymore and the trinkets, reason to become, pile up yet with all this clattering, with all this, our minds escape and we believe, like children, that in the void resounds sound.
«This last stanza of the poem Mount of Merchants, and even more so this last verse, encompasses the essence of what Pokoninon is: a mixture of the lies we tell ourselves and the deep emptiness we feel against the backdrop of excessive urbanisation. »
Writing to better deconstruct
There is a certain elitism in the world of writing, especially in France, and poetry is no stranger to it. It starts very early, at school, where learning the language also involves caging the creativity of less conventionally rigorous students.
« Education is also up to us. Writing is about showing that all possible styles exist and that there is not just one way of doing things. You can’t expect everything from teachers. They represent a system that was not made for the poor and for minorities. For me, some of the best writers come from rap. Representation is crucial. That’s what makes all the difference. »
At the top of this classist and discriminating chain, the Immortals of the French Academy continue to enclose a language that, in a more popular reality, ever ceases to move and mutate.
« I give a cordial middle finger to all the custodians of the French language. I have a poem about this: the dictionary does not make people speak, but the opposite. When a language ends up in a hermetic dictionary, it is a dead language. Who knows? Maybe the verb ‘croiver’ will make its way into it like ‘bicrave’ did not so long ago. »
If his pen is a world, agneau pimenté who wields Guadeloupean Creole, French and English, builds his own language to better represent his reality. L’était, septombre, octombre, le divers, mars moi de guerre, gloomy June and quatre form the seven saisombres, all with their own meaning. These recurring themes haunt the author’s poetry, deepening his perspective on the world around him. The nostalgia of the était, the drought of the divers, the inner struggles of the “warring self” – agneau pimenté codifies the human experience and reclaims it. There is no fear of losing the reader.
« I have been writing publicly for over ten years. I leave keys to understanding and have not added new words to my newspeak for a long time. My audience is still small enough that I can take the time to respond personally when there are questions.
Incorporating Guadeloupean Creole – a language that survived the French colonial bulldozer – is a revolutionary act in itself when you consider how much racism there is in the publishing world.
« Creole is super important to me, to deconstruct our thought patterns. I would like to be able to handle Guadeloupean Creole better. After nearly 18 years away from my native land, my Creole is a hybrid that is very much influenced by English. I would like to thank Timalo for his podcast, which has helped me catch up. »
The poet defends himself from being cryptic for effect. Creating codes also means breaking others, as when he disguises the Caribbean Revolutionary Alliance as a harmless rainbow in tic tac tic tac tic. The reader’s acuity is paramount. Yet breaking codes is not limited to reshaping the language in one’s own image. The deconstruction is in the form as well as in the content with a call to question the societies that shape us against all common sense.
« Pokoninon is about not being able to be without the sum of all. About not having a place, not being able to allow yourself mediocrity. Does doing more, doing less, count in the end? Being black in a white world is hard even if it will never be as hard as being a black woman. Through my art, I try to break free of these chains – some of which I put on myself. »
Pokoninon is not the only poetic project of agneau pimenté. New collections are forthcoming – one erotic, the other in English. The artist is also preparing a collaboration with the Guadeloupean poet Samuel Kramrr on a project entitled Lunaire.
Where to buy POKONINON
- Pokoninon is available on agneaupimente.com with an exclusive £60 pack that includes Pokoninon and Petits poèmes pour grands amants, an exclusive erotic mini-book. This special numbered edition also includes an exclusive handwritten poem by the author. Please note that this pack is limited to 100 copies.
- The collection is also available as a paper edition on Amazon for £24.34.
- Thanks to its ISBN number, bookshops can also source Pokoninon for wider distribution.
- Authors who inspire agneau pimenté
- Charles Baudelaire, Boris Vian, Charles Bukowski, Jean D’Ormesson, Frantz Fanon, Guy Debord, Maryse Condé, Gisèle Pineau et more recently, Audre Lorde.
- More locally: Letador, Simone Lagrand, Cindy Marie Nelly.
- His recommendations
- Alcools, Apollinaire
- 7 by Tristan Garcia
- Le jour où les Antilles feront peuple : La prophétie des peuples colonisés, by Matthieu Gama
- The bibliography of Sonny Rupaire
- The works of Rumi
- The works of John Keats
- Simone Lagrand
- Tann & Konprann, the podcast by Timalo, the author behind Dyablès and Channda
- His favourite playlists
- Lots of grime
- My playlist, This is Guadeloupe on Spotify
- Pikan, Loxymore‘s playlist also on Spotify
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