Sunday, October 31, 2010

Found Poetry on the Haitian Streets


Transport truck in the hills above Jacmel; the text reads "Snow."

A tap-tap is Haitian public transport. Like the jitney in Jamaica, the matatu in Kenya, the jingle truck in Afghanistan, the tap-tap is not only a way to get from place to place, but a colorful work of art. Many tap-taps are covered with pictures and text.


This one says "The color of dignity."

Several weeks ago I saw a tap-tap that said "Poetic Lover" on it. For some reason, I didn't get a picture of it, and I have been looking for it ever since. My husband and kids gamely joined in the hunt, teasing me about my poetic lover. Check out the end of this post for the happy ending.



Seeing the "Poetic Lover" tap-tap started me thinking about the poetry there is to be found in the Haitian streets, and I began to plan a found poem, made up completely of the words on tap-taps and public transport trucks. Today I wrote many of the slogans down as I saw them. There's something so amazing about all of this text in a country with only a 50% literacy rate. I wondered if I should translate all the words into English, since most of my readers wouldn't be able to read the mixture of French, English, and Kreyol, but then the mixture is so much of the charm. I decided to give you both. I'll start out with the English version, and if you want to read the English, French, and Kreyol one, you can scroll down and read that one.


This one suggests you stop saying "Blah blah blah."

I didn't use all the words I collected, but I used a lot of them. All I did to them was rearrange them and add punctuation. Each line is an exact quote copied off a vehicle.


Poetic Lover (English version)

To be or not to be -
We are the one:
King of the roads!
Full power,
Everything's working together:
Beautiful horizon,
The risk of the sea,
Star of the life,
Divine protection.
Let's go, baby!
Get free or die in tryin' -
It's my destiny.
Talk to me!

Don't say that!
True friends are rare.
Love you, Baby Cool,
I'll always love you.
You and me,
Loving you,
Always.
Relax!
A poor person is a person,
Humiliation isn't hell.
Life is a divine gift.
Patience!
The Lord is here,
The future belongs to God.

A difficult piece of advice?
I won't forget Florida.
Game over.

Beautiful surprise!
A tranquil life.
Peace.


Poetic Lover (in original languages as found on tap-taps)

To be or not to be -
We are the one:
Roi des routes!
Full power,
Toutes choses concourent:
Bel horizon,
The risk of the sea,
Star of the life,
Protection divine.
Let's go, baby!
Get free or die in tryin' -
C'est mon destin.
Talk to me!

Pa di sa!
Les vrais amis sont rares.
Love you, Baby Cool,
Map toujou renmen ou.
Toi et moi,
Loving you
Always.
Poze w!
Malere se moun,
Imilyasyon pa lanfe.
La vie est un don divin.
Patience!
L'Eternel est ici,
L'avenir est à Dieu.

Un conseil difficile?
I won't forget Florida.
Game over.

Belle surprise!
La vi trankil,
La paix.


I had almost given up hope of ever seeing the "Poetic Lover" again. Had I imagined it? I knew I hadn't. Then on Sunday, as we were almost home, I suddenly saw it. My husband did a u-turn so I could get some pictures. Here they are:



3 comments:

Kathie said...

I loved the tri-lingual version. Nicely done!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Very cool! I remember riding tap taps when I was in Haiti many years ago on a work project during college years. Unforgettable and very poetic.

athiran said...

poetic lover! how cool.

p.s. i don't understand the other languages, but the tri-lingual version is cool. maybe you should just give footnotes and keep the original language?