All roads can lead to poetry, whether you are a singer like Benoit Pinette – better known as Tire le coyote – or a philo teacher, essayist and former rapper like Jérémie McEwen. Both are publishing their first collection this week, an exciting leap into the void filled with possibilities.
Writing is at the heart of Benoit Pinette’s work as a songwriter. “I do not have a first degree writing and I have always approached the song as being poetry”, he explains to us.
“I’m always looking for a strong image. It is even often what will propel a song. ”
His transition to poetry is indeed not so surprising. The big difference for him is that the texts that are part of his collection entitled Memory is a cord of kindling are much shorter than those in a song, just to get straight to the point.
“I like poetry which is punchy, which approaches the quotation, which encourages reflection. I wanted to synthesize as much as possible. Initially, most of the poems were longer, and I cut with the help of the editor of La Peuplade. This was the most difficult adaptation in moving from one to the other. ”
Find your voice
Jérémie McEwen, whose collection is entitled Rumen, believes that poetry has enabled him to free himself from all the writing constraints he may have had, both as an essayist and as a rapper.
“There was something forced in the way I wrote rap, with the rhymes and everything. I want to say to myself from 10 years ago: let it be, the rhymes! It’s like I’ve figured out how I want to write poetry. ”
An approach which allowed him to go more directly “into the guts and the emotion, to the things themselves”, and finally to assume his vulnerability. “I kind of became the rapper I wanted to be. ”
In fact, the author of Hip-Hop Philosophy – From Origins to Lauryn Hill, an essay which he published a year and a half ago and which he considers to be “didactic”, considers that he has finally found his “writer’s voice” in the freedom of poetic form.
Surprise yourself while reading, is there something more fun? It’s written poetry on the cover, but, in fact, it’s a kind of poetry-essay-story, and this hybrid and free side interests me a lot.
“I give myself more and more permission to write as I see fit. I don’t know if I can reach more people, but I can relate to it more, ”says Jérémie McEwen.
This freedom, on the contrary, made Benoit Pinette feel very dizzy, accustomed to the structures of the song.
“For me, poetry is the purest and freest form of writing there is. But this freedom brings its share of questions … At one point, you tear your hair! It becomes a little difficult to know when your poem is finished, you are always changing a word of place, the order of the lines… I always felt that I had to add something. ”
Benoit Pinette also finds that poetry has allowed him to go even further in his intimacy – even if his songs already do a lot. “Because you can’t hide your words behind a performance or a musical arrangement. They must resonate on their own. Result: he never felt so vulnerable as when he sent his manuscript to La Peuplade.
It takes courage to publish poetry, naivety, a certain innocence… But I throw myself into this with my heart and my spontaneity, without calculating where it can lead me.
Benoit Pinette started to write Memory is a cord of kindling at the end of his most recent tour, in December 2019. Out of need to miss the song, to meet the challenge. But the subject of the book, which deals with unhealed childhood wounds, had stuck in his head… since the birth of his children.
“It has been growing in me for five, six years. But everything starts with the arrival of my children, because they were a great revealing of my relationship with childhood. ”
The maturation process was also long for Jérémie McEwen, who remembers having a first flash around 2013, after seeing a Snickers commercial which said: “When I don’t eat, I become a monster. “” I told myself there was something there and started to write biographical texts on my relationship with food. Then, at one point, I thought to myself: but no one is going to interest anyone to know what I eat! ”
His girlfriend advises him to cut and “get out of the first level”. He then begins to prune and “sculpt” his texts which, at the beginning, were not written in poetic form, to finally present them to his editor at XYZ a year and a half ago.
“I told him: if you think this is pocket-sized, tell me, and I’ll start writing essays again. She told me: no, there is something in there, we are going to work on it! Seven years later, he says he has never worked so long on something.
“But I wanted that, to trust the words, the text, and let something emerge. To make literature for the first time. ”
The rest of the world
Now that Jeremiah McEwen has had a taste of poetry and its possibilities, he knows he will come back to it one way or another. Benoit Pinette too, but without urgency or putting pressure on himself, probably after a next album.
“I don’t want this to be the only poetry book I’ve written,” said the one who regularly invited poets to open for his first part on his most recent tour.
It is art that has the greatest place in my heart. Music may be exceptional, if the text is flat, I pick up. I can’t help but dwell on it and, as an author, it’s what takes me the most time and investment, on all fronts.
In these special times, when a 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, stole the show at Joe Biden’s investiture ceremony, what can poetry do for us?
“I never thought that a song could change the world,” answers Benoit Pinette. But a poem, a text can contribute to a movement because it forces us to take a stand. Poetry also has this capacity to just put beauty in our daily life. ”
For Jérémie McEwen, poetry is like a “blank page”, and it is for this reason that he invests it with such enthusiasm. “I was listening to Amanda Gorman’s poem and I was thinking of Maya Angelou’s poem when Bill Clinton was inaugurated, which ended with these words: good morning. For me, poetry is that, it’s a new beginning. It’s opening your eyes to look at the world as if it was the first time. ”
Memory is a cord of kindling, Benoit Pinette, La Peuplade, 93 pages. In bookstores on February 4
What is innate? What is acquired? How to break the chain of suffering that is transmitted from one generation to another? These are the big questions that Benoit Pinette asks himself in this collection which is sometimes difficult to read, so much he plunges into the pain and anxiety of his own childhood. “I didn’t want to hide behind anything,” he explains. It’s his fear of repeating the patterns family which made him plunge into these troubled waters, but which become clearer as the book progresses. “I wanted to finish on something brighter, and that’s why I dedicate the last part to children. There is a lot of intensity in these very short poems written in the course of the emotion and in the sentences chiseled to perfection. We can clearly recognize here the way and the meaning of the image of Tire the coyote. And it is far from being a fault.
Rumen, Jérémie McEwen, XYZ, 122 pages. In bookstores on February 3.
Because he is in pain of love, the narrator of Rumen decides that he will learn to live without others… and without eating. “But without that, we are nothing! », Says and demonstrates Jérémie McEwen. Through the relationship with food, its cultural and personal evocations, he is thus interested in the notion of identity. “Like food, which by definition is transitory, I try to defend this idea that identity is something in flux. »Playful and stimulating, full of references, sometimes strange, Rumen is an extremely loose poetic tale. Jérémie McEwen is convinced that in this way his thesis is more tangible. “I think it’s clearer by mentioning it when describing it. I would also like to be able to say to myself, in 30 years: “Eille, that was the fun to read, that”, rather than “it was very rigorous and perfectly put together”. ” How to say ? Mission accomplished.