Poet of Curaçao: Hemayel Martina interviewed by Lee Bob Black

Uploaded by leebobblack on 03.02.2011

jbjb Poet of Cura ao: Hemayel Martina interviewed by Lee Bob Black Lee Bob Black: Why are you
a poet? [00:11] Hemayel Martina: I m a poet because I think poetry is the easiest way
for me to convey my passion, my love for my island [Cura ao]. That s first. And also [to]
convey my concerns for my island. That s why I m a poet. It has certainly to do with my
relationship with not only my island, which is what my book is primarily about, but also
with my personal relationship I just write my feelings, which is easier sometimes than
even saying it. LBB: Do you write more from your heart or your head? [01:07] HM: There
are instances [where] it s a combination of both for me, and maybe sometimes even a struggle
in the poem to seek the balance and see which way to go, what to follow, your heart or your
mind. LBB: In English your book is titled Worried Ancestor Rest In Peace. And in your
language, Papiamento, it s Ansestro Preokup Soseg . Why did you name your debut poetry
collection that? [01:28] HM: It has to do with my personal relationship I had with my
grandmother. The title is Rest In Peace, and, hypothetically speaking, she was observing
everything that I ve been doing since she passed away. On plenty of occasions, I think
that she would have been worried, concerned. At a certain point, it was actually not because
of her, but in respect and appreciation of all the sacrifices she did for me and my family,
I said, Ok, I ll try to be a better man, and do my best. And in that case, you should just
rest in peace, Granny. So the title that s why it s Ancestor, which is really like, Granny,
just rest in peace, and then I put it on a more national scale and added more ancestors
in the book. The second reason why I titled it Worried Ancestor is to emphasize one of
my aims with the book, which is to reflect on the good deeds of plenty of our ancestors
that contributed to the development of my island, Cura ao. In that case, I thought it
was a good idea to have the word Ancestor there. LBB: Do you think your poetry focuses
too much on the good things about the people of Cura ao? [03:41] HM: The book, Worried
Ancestor Rest In Peace, consists of short biographies of one paragraph of the ancestors,
and a poem that s from the perspective of the ancestor. In the poems, I questionize
[sic] things that I think we should change, from the perspective of my ancestors, assuming
that they will say this, or think this, because this is the life they conducted, these are
the things they did. So, the bad things, I ll say, are somewhat in the poems. It s not
really clear there. It s a bit hidden between the lines. I really talk about the things
that, if someone from Cura ao reads it, they will know immediately, and say, Yeah, yeah,
that is what he is talking about. But I didn t have a direct approach and say [that] I
m criticizing this particular project, or this particular person. It was more a metaphor.
LBB: Did you ever write love poetry? [05:10] HM: Yes I did. LBB: Did you give it to your
girlfriends? HM: Yeah, actually what happened was that I had a whole collection, it was
bigger than this collection [Worried Ancestor]. The relationship was almost at an end. It
was difficult for me to say what I wanted to say. I didn t know where to start. And
I wrote it, and just said, Here is where I am. You decide where you are. LBB: The population
of Cura ao is about 140,000 people. And your poetry collection has sold 800 copies to date.
That s wonderful. How did you promote Worried Ancestor Rest In Peace? [06:53] HM: For me,
poetry is about perfection. Sometimes it comes naturally, and it s like, boom, the best.
But for me it s really about perfecting it and perfecting it and taking time. But in
this case, what I did, I just wrote it, what I felt, it just went really smooth, and I
didn t edit it at all. So it was really clear. From your heart to the paper, boom. The whole
process for me is feeling it. It has to do a lot with feeling. I first feel it. And then
I reason it. The perfection part of it is more the reasoning part, and then, at the
end, the combination of feeling, because I think at the end, when you read it, you have
to feel it. That is for me the part of perfecting it. I m talking about this particularly topic,
but my public can relate to that in one way or the other. This is my first book. And poetry
is not something that everyone will leave their home and go and buy it at a bookstore.
The marketing was one that we choose we went to the people. We had a holistic approach
with the message of the book. We had music. We had art. And we had short lectures. We
went to high schools, middle schools, and three primary schools. And we just had fun
with the kids. It wasn t that much about the book. It was about the message that was behind
the book. It wasn t that much planned [sic]. It was me and my friend, Levi Silvanie, a
well known singer in Cura ao and Holland. He had his guitar. We had little presentations,
with me reciting some poems, and he singing his songs. It was really that all the kids
live with us [sic], so what we managed to do was bring a topic that maybe is boring
talk about history, ancestors and make it more lively, more colourful. That really helped.
When the kids went home, they told their parents, Hey, we had this at school. So, the ones who
have the money to buy it, know about it. Another thing we did was we shot one video clip, and
we really wanted the kids to be part of it. So when we went to the schools, we encouraged
the kids to come to the [video] shooting, and they involved their parents in it. Another
aspect of the marketing approach was we had an extensive media tour, a hectic one. We
approached it as a CD, as this book is a song. Because the management team, it s their first
experience distributing and marketing a book, and they have plenty of experience with bands
and solo artists. So they had that same approach in the media tour with me. We went to all
the TV shows. It was funny because at programs that are really about gossip, we turned the
whole spirit [around], and made it a little more conscious, [we talked] about the issues
of our island. We had a show that was the first time in Cura ao where you had one night
of only poetry and song. In terms of me and my friend, Levi Silvani, planning it was really
simple. It really came out of our hearts. He came with a song. I came with a poem. It
was full. Everybody lived with it. That was the most rewarding experience of all. It was
unbelievable. It s still difficult for me to comprehend why people thought it would
be great in the first instance, and then to come there and feel it. LBB: After Worried
Ancestor Rest In Peace (Ansestro Preokup Soseg ), what's next? [11:01] HM: I have a couple
of ideas for the second edition of the collection. But I also have some plans with regard to
this collection, because the idea at first was it not to be just a book. It has a whole
project around it. This year we will focus on the project so that at the end of the year,
or next year, the second edition can come [out]. The project is the following. First,
to work with schools where it will be part of the curriculum for children to search [for]
and interview their elderly neighbours, elderly people, and their family about their family
or people in Cura ao who have passed away. And, based on [those] interviews, have some
short paragraphs similar as we have in [Worried Ancestor] and then post it on a website where
it will be like an archive. It won t be only the short biographies collected by the students,
but it will also be a poem. It will be the concept of the book, getting it into schools,
and getting schools to work with us in the process of collecting as much information
[about] the elderly people their time the clock is ticking. To get them, and get as
much as information from them, and involving the youth. Another part is a summer school
where for about three weeks young kids will come, and we ll have historians come by to
give lectures about our history, we will have music in it for sure, and [the students] will
go to historic places, they will also write, produce. It will be like a writing summer
school. We will [also] have known writers in Cura ao that will contribute to that. From
the work of the students, it is the idea to come with a second edition. So it won t actually
be my full input. It will be more the input of students. Date of interview: January 11,
2011. Location of interview: Durban, South Africa. Hemayel Martina (October 24, 1990
- January 29, 2011). http://www.AnsestroPreokupa.com http://www.HemayelMartina.com Lee Bob Black.
http://www.LeeBobBlack.com http://www.Facebook.com/LeeBobBlack http://www.YouTube.com/LeeBobBlack PAGE PAGE
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