5 Questions with Lenelle Moïse

HaitiGlass 080713Now that the fall event season is officially under way here at City Lights Bookstore, our quasi-weekly series, “5 Questions” is back in full force. This week, we have three events.

The first is this Tuesday, as we celebrate the release of a City Lights publication! Our newest book published by City Lights / Sister Spit is Haiti Glass by playwright, essayist, and poet Lenelle Moïse. Lenelle, an award-winning performer, will be reading and performing from the book in the Poetry Room, and it’s free!

Who: Lenelle Moïse is an award-winning poet, playwright, essayist and internationally touring performance artist. She creates jazz-infused, hip-hop bred, politicized texts about identity, memory and magic. Her poems and essays are featured in several anthologies, including: Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution and We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists. Her writing has also been published in the Utne Reader, Make/Shift, Left Turn, and numerous other magazines and journals. A current Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow, her plays include Expatriate, Merit and The Many Faces of Nia. She lives in Northampton, MA where she was the 2010-2012 Poet Laureate. Haiti Glass is her long-awaited first book.

Event: Tuesday, September 16th, 7:00 PM at City Lights Bookstore, in the Poetry Room upstairs. Lenelle will read from her new book with an introduction by Sister Spit editor Michelle Tea.

About the Book: In her debut collection of verse and prose, Moïse moves deftly between memories of growing up as a Haitian immigrant in the suburbs of Boston, to bearing witness to brutality and catastrophe, to intellectual, playful explorations of pop culture enigmas like Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Be it the presence of a skinhead on the subway, a newspaper account of unthinkable atrocity, or the ‘noose loosened to necklace’ of desire, the cut of Haiti Glass lays bare a world of resistance and survival, mourning and lust, need and process, triumph and prayer.

Praise for Haiti Glass:

“Haiti Glass is a magnificent collection of poetry and prose. Part mantra, part lamentation, part prayer, this incredible book puts us wholly in the presence of an extraordinary and brave talent, whose voice will linger in your heart and mind long after you read the last word of this book.”—Edwidge Danticat

“Very powerful poetry and prose. The spoken word cadence to many of the poems works really well on the page. Moïse takes up the complexities of Haitian culture, the immigrant experience, sexuality and gender, and bearing witness. Highly recommended.”—Roxane Gay

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Lenelle Moïse: I had a Cookie Monster moment about the books. What’s the saying? “Nom nom nom.” I smiled about the wooden floors and got a rare rush of belonging. I made a wish that my manuscript would get published so it could live in the bookstore on my behalf. And now Haiti Glass is on the shelves, and City Lights is my publisher!

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

LM: It’s a soundtrack of shard crunch, hoarse voices scatting, bursts of laughter like thunder, and the softest hums. The poems of Haiti Glass are full of music. There are dry palms clapping in “Remember Noah,” and soprano saxophone screams in “Where Our Protest Sound.” There’s a makeshift trumpet player in “Mud Mothers,” and Michael Jackson’s “Ow!” like a cymbal crashing in “Desire.” Somewhere along the way, Jean-Michel Basquiat has a clarinet solo.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

LM: At age ten, I found a paperback copy of The Color Purple. Miss Celie had me at hello. “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God.”

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

WEB_Moise_HaitiGlass_AuthorPortrait_2013_450x675pxLM: That’s a scratchy wool sweater of a question! I guess I’d make more collages? Yes. Large-scale collages.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi).

LM: I’d want my memories of love, my hands and my voice. I was born on an island so I think I could make it work, as long as I could feel things and build things and holler. A knife would come in handy, too. You know, for sushi. I require the same things when I visit Manhattan.


Join us this Tuesday to see Lenelle Moïse perform for free! This one is definitely a steal. For more about Lenelle, check out her official site. For more Haiti Glass on the East Coast, she might be in your city soon on the second leg of the book’s tour.

Go here for more about Sister Spit, a City Lights imprint showcasing radical, queer-centric, feminist literature from various artists around the U.S. and edited by Michelle Tea.

Many more events coming up, keep it here on the blog for more “5 Questions” from brilliant authors.

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