La Tribu des Rimes Crépues is a river story – both a questioning and a maturing. Or rather, a digestion, as Samuel Kramrr, the self-proclaimed Gargantua, explains. Released two years ago, the poet’s triptych, a metaphor for a phratry united by artistic filiation, continues to make an impression.
Being alone, together. This is the precursor of la Tribu des Rimes Crépues, the idea that each individual is in essence alone in his uniqueness but held in the arms of the multitude. With this first opus, Samuel Kramrr goes in search of those who resemble him, those who furiously, wobbly, proudly wear what he calls ‘cracks of light’.
“Writing is an extremely solitary exercise. But that’s the case with creation in general, whatever the talent. It’s solitary, absolutely intimate. For me, being together means being alone, together, it means finding the common denominator that brings us together in our singularities. And that’s what the tribe is all about. In ethnology, the tribe is the closest social circle after the family. It is a circle that one has chosen.”
And in his world, the ‘cracks of light’ – an expression that the poet happily borrows – are those discrepancies with reality that he believes all creative people share; nourishing distortions that open up new fields of possibility and push back the boundaries of the imagination.
The appetite for the arts comes early, often in childhood. A phenomenon to which a young Samuel Rinaldo is no stranger, discovering the joys of writing as early as primary school. As a teenager, he turned to poetry and tried out some very, very, very bad prose.
“I was 14 or 15 years old. I was nagging my mum so she would read to me. Her answer? That I couldn’t talk about poetry without ever having read Baudelaire. So I plunged into Les Fleurs du Mal and it was an incredible slap in the face! I started devouring everything with his name on it.”
This is only the first of a long list of artists who inspire the budding author. Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Samuel becomes an avid consumer of the end-of-century literature that continues to shape generations of artists. With its strong symbolism, where neuroses, passions and hallucinations come to life, the Decadence movement is perhaps the literary movement best able to best translate the torments of adolescence.
“That’s how I got into writing, by following the masters. So I have a super-framed writing style, copied from the classics, with alexandrines, references to the East, to Ancient Greece, etc.”
Leaving Paris for London, Samuel has a catalytic encounter – it’s Agneau Pimenté. The two authors fraternise, discuss arts and politics but above all challenge each other. A prose battle that forces Samuel to break the shackles of his pen. However, the poet has not yet found his voice. He is experimenting, daring to write in English but still fumbling. What troubles him is being able to transmit his Creole identity without betraying himself. The first lines of la Tribu des Rimes Crépues graze his fingertips.
“What I lacked was the knowledge of how to write Antillean, write local, write my identity without writing in Creole because it’s not a language I’m really fluent in. There is this fundamental reading in the creation of les Rimes Crépues – because that’s where everything will really start – it’s Le voyage à Cayenne by Lyonel Trouillot from the collection C’est avec mains qu’on fait chansons. It left me completely shaken. A few hours later, the poem a Tribu des Rimes Crépues, which gives its name to the collection, came to me. The very concept of rimes crépues comes to me and I understand that I can write me, I can write Antillean, I can write Caribbean, I can write London, I can write with all my influences without copying anything that exists.”
From the inter-time to the twighlight, a long digestion
This is how Samuel Kramrr describes his creative process. Taking the time to reflect and put things into perspective no matter what storms rage outside. There is a real need to soak up everyday events, big and small, before making them the fodder for his art.
“I speak of digestion as opposed to the vomit of Agneau Pimenté who stacks Moleskines to the ceiling. Life is a whirlwind of things, whether it’s my friendships, love affairs, work, the sense of revolt, politics, general discontent. I take it all in as I go along, I absorb it, I take in the minerals, the vitamins, the substance that will enable me to write. And it can take me a long time, even a very long time… until that triggering moment, an impulse that will allow me to write one, two, three or ten poems.”
For Samuel, creation is bathed in surrealist images that echo the great concepts that the author has constructed over the years.
“I don’t go looking for words like a goldsmith. It’s more a work of re-transcription of images that often come to me which are marked by surrealism. Dali’s soft watches are exactly the kind of thing that drives me.”
This is how, among other things, the inter-time, the twilight and the chabine lines were born, like motifs repeated throughout the artist’s poetry.
“We could talk about this for a long time. My concepts are like big cardboard boxes. They are polysemous and protean images that I can use in different ways depending on the subject.”
Mirroring the inter-time and the twilight, a suspended time where the end is volatile, refusing any completion.
Inter-time is the eternity between two heartbeats.
“We are in between two worlds. So is the twilight, but it responds to questions of identity. Twilight is the colour of old rum. When I talk about drinking sips of twilight, I am talking about this alcohol to which we, Caribbean people have a visceral attachment to, I am talking about the ambivalence of our history. This perpetual war that we wage on each other is for our fathers’ sweat, our forefathers’ tears and one of the reasons why we found ourselves in chains for 400 years.”
For the author, tinkering with concepts is a three-act formula – beauty, accuracy, originality – for an evocative combination. Another recurring motif is that of the kite, a symbol of an evaporated childhood, or that of the sand trampled at the feet, the sign of a vanished innocence. But beware, beauty does not mean aestheticism. Bringing harmony out of monstrosity is a tightrope walk.
“The only constraint I impose on myself is not to use words, rhymes or concepts that have been abused. For example, the word love appears very little in my texts. But that’s all for myself. Whether people find it beautiful or not doesn’t really matter to me, as long as it works in my head.”
La Tribu des Rimes Crépues: the affirmation of our essence
La Tribu des Rimes Crépues published by Neg Mawon exists in three editions – Bacchanales, Crépusculaire and Albion – which respond to the major themes addressed by the poet: the overthrow of the established order, the plurality of Caribbean identity and finally the quest for artificial paradises. Referring to the concept of the tribe, the three works all have a detail that makes them unique despite the similarity of their content. Prefaced by Ernest Pépin, Max Rippon and Agneau Pimenté, Samuel Kramrr claims an inalienable and definitely modern creolité. From the very first lines, the author tells is like it is.
I am guilty of some lies and some harsh truths, la tribu des rimes crépues.
“This is the foundation of all that is to come; the moment I take responsibility in front of an accusing jury. It’s also the moment when I admit to using artistic devices that will allow me to smooth things over – it’s all the aesthetics, the metaphors that make things more beautiful. But the whole thing remains uncompromising. Between two lies, we hit the hard stuff.”
According to the author, his tribe is an iconic image – that of the group in a circle around the fire chanting in unison. It is a moment of almost magical mysticism rooted in repetition. It would then no longer be a simple text but the codex of a new creation; a ripple effect that the poet seeks to capture.
“The tribe grows every time someone joins this circle of repetition, every time someone reads, repeats, shares and appropriates the text. It is in this logic that I invited Anaïs Verspan, Cédrick Boucard and Dorlis to make this body of work their own and to propose something new.”
Sitting down and joining the tribe is also why Samuel Kramrr promotes his collection in a new way. Unfortunately, slowed down by the Covid-19 epidemic, the artist continues to propose live events where he is accompanied on stage by musicians, poets, painters, and graffiti artists, reinforcing a desire to share and to see la Tribu des Rimes Crépues come to life beyond the pages.
“I work regularly with DJ Gunshot, José Verdol on guitar, Christian Dahomé on flute, Anaïs Verspan, Cédrick Boucard, Dorlis, Agneau Pimenté with whom I continue to write.”
Indeed, la Tribu des Rimes Crépues is intended to be a four-dimensional piece of art. Again recently, the author was approached by Manick Siar-Titeca’s audiobook platform, Une Voix, Une Histoire to record a spoken version of the collection.
The first branch of the triptych, the Bacchanales edition is prefaced by Ernest Pépin with a front cover by Anaïs Verspan. This upside-down colonial helmet is the breeding ground for a fertile rebirth. Here, the established order is challenged.
“It is at the same time an artistic, political, historical discourse… almost identity-based in the subject matter and in the style that I propose. I like to say that it is the affirmation of our essence, what is deeply rooted, which makes us who we are.”
Samuel Kramrr doesn’t like being called an activist, an appellation he reserves for artists who are ‘leftists protesting naked at the Césars’. Instead, he reaffirms his role as a poet talking about things that concern him – from love to politics – which does not prevent the artist from clearly vocalising his convictions.
“In reality, poetry and politics share the same idealism. It is political games that have distorted this desire to achieve civic harmony. I joined Madame Taubira’s campaign, yes, but before that, I was involved with many local associations. Whatever the context, my answer is always the same – if not to change the world, don’t wake me up.”
At the tip of the matrix triangle
Then there is the Twilight edition. This time prefaced by Max Rippon with a cover by Cédrick Boucard, the question of identity – who we are, how we are – is tackled head-on, leaving room for the cherished concept of twilight.
“My rhymes are coarse because they are deeply attached to this identity that does not exist anywhere else. Coarser hair is all about being of African descent. No one else has this type of hair.”
For Samuel Kramrr, the twilight – that other time between two times – which is neither day nor night, is the symbol of a Creole identity that is neither Western nor African. These two sources place us at the point of a matrix triangle without being able to deny either one.
“The way we function as a society is totally westernised, but culturally, spiritually, the heritage of these pieces of Africa is undeniable. Our relationship to the family, to our elders, to orality, that’s where it all comes from. We are a people halfway through. We transcend the two bases of this matrix triangle.”
Jason, Orpheus and the Sirens of London
Finally, the Albion edition, with a preface by Agneau Pimenté and a cover by Dorlis, is an ode to She and the quest for artificial paradises. It is the book of the providential wreck. The London years are those of self-loss and experimentation. The author gives in to the sirens of the City in order to better find himself.
“Artificial paradises are a set of distractions. It’s easy to be seduced, but sometimes it’s good to get lost. There is a form of serendipity – being where you were supposed to be by chance. Again, it’s about understanding who we are intimately. For me, it was about finding my path/voice with la Tribu des Rimes Crépues.”
Existence is a story; otherwise, it’s all meaningless
“The poem I am most attached to at the moment and which is not published in the collection is called Pa palé, probably because I was trying something new both in the subject matter, the rhythm, the symbolism and in the type of writing. It’s a provocation that I hadn’t tried before.”
Pa palé is not the only poem that stands out. Le Septième Jour holds a special place in the heart of the 2018 Africulture award-winning author thanks to a poignant text about exile and becoming. Coma is also a cornerstone text, the marker between a before and after la Tribu des Rimes Crépues.
Samuel Kramrr’s poetry is an invitation to intimacy, a mise en abyme that makes the personal a universal experience. The artist puts himself on stage, a griot of his generation, at the very centre of the tribe, assuming the polymorphism of the character he presents; he (fragments) himself, he (tells) himself.
“Everything is a social construct; everything is a code, everything is the establishment of norms. Life is a staging – art, everyday life, work. In my poetry, there is a staging of me, of my ego, of how I position myself in the world and vice versa. No one is a monolith in their personality, and I am no exception. My poetry is simply a prism through which I let my different facets live.”
La Tribu des Rimes Crépues is available in bookstores, at FNAC, at BYS Library and as an audiobook on the platform Une Voix, Une Histoire. Out of conviction, the author has chosen not to make his collection available on Amazon.
Samuel Kramrr continues to organise live events. You can follow him on his Instagram account @sam_kramrr or on the Facebook page La Tribu des Rimes Crépues. For more information, Samuel Kramrr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The collection Lunaire, in collaboration with his lifelong writing partner, Agneau Pimenté will also be available soon.
● Artists who continue to inspire him
- The Three Charles – Baudelaire, Aznavour for his storytelling – rap before rap – and Bukowski because trash can be beautiful
- The classics, Rimbaud and Verlaine
- Daniel Pennac
- Beigbeder and Doc Gynéco for their glibness
- Raphaël Confiant, who helped him understand that writing Creole can be done in French. “I am not an academician, but I can allow myself to take liberties with the French language, to creolise it, to colonise it.”
- Comment faire l’amour à un nègre sans se fatiguer by Danny Laferrière is magnificent, always in this relationship of the black, Afro-Caribbean “us” in a westernised world
- Very obviously, Lyonel Trouillot
- Ernest Pépin and Max Rippon for their poetry
- MC Solaar
- Jimi Hendrix in both writing and music
● His recommendations Poetry / Novels / Audiobook
- Pokoninon et Petits Poèmes pour Grands Amants by @agneaupimente
- Le monologue du Gwopwel by Fabrice Théodose also available on the Une Voix, Une Histoire platform
- Prose Combat by MC Solaar, finally available on streaming platforms
- Dune by Denis Villeneuve and of course, Frank Herbert’s saga
● Playlists that put him in a creative mood
- Depending on my state of mind, French rap when I’m in a slightly rebellious mood – Mauvais Oeil by Lunatic l, Batterie Faible by Damso, everything by Médine
- When I’m in a lighter mood, the Secteur Ä, QALF Infinity by Damso
- When I’m in a more psychedelic mood, Jimi Hendrix so I can ride the wave
- When I’m in a more romantic mood, Charles Aznavour of course, Nat King Cole, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Francis Cabrel
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