But closing out the night was a quiet giant who waited patiently. His head glistened under light and he donned a tailored jacket that offered a glimpse of an Eddie Bauer t-shirt, if your perception was keen. My instincts were stoked. I waited in anticipation, but not like a giddy fan. It was simply out of respect to witness the literary manifestation of why poets bring pen to page.
Enzo, too, is a language beast. A rhythmic master. A storyteller to reckon and after interviewing him for The Miami Time on Friday, April 24, I can personally attest that he personifies transparency. We talked the delicate matter of Black boys and dealing with mental health and anxiety, being a Brown Haitian in Black America, and how he eventually opened a clinched fist to become a loving husband and father of two boys who exudes the sensitivity he never knew as a child, but realizes it is as necessary to life as breath. Here’s what he shared in our four-question exchange:
PD: I’ve read it has taken you ten years to pen your upcoming collection, When my body was a clinched fist that will debut in July 2020. What served as the motivator to continue creatively until you reached the finish line?
That being said, the reason why I worked so hard and for so long to cross the finish line, chiseling away at these poems, is because one day when someone happens to read said poems they might feel seen and heard in their own struggle to overcome similar situations. I want them to feel, even for a minute or two, that this thing called life is worth the hard and long chisel and that they too are worthy of such a dedication.
Enzo: Poetry allows us to provide what Ken Burns refers to as a “safe harbor to express our emotions.” Being both introverted and a sensitive black youth presents a far greater challenge to navigate the perilous streets of one’s life. I spent a good amount of time not just avoiding the violence but also trying to protect myself emotionally. And it was very difficult to balance the two worlds.
PD: Why is this collection of poems such an important reference and voice for young Black boys who have chosen to abandon violence? How can it help those who resist peace?
Enzo: When My Body Was A Clinched Fist is an interjection in the conversation about what happens to sensitive black boys in a very tough environment, especially those who choose to walk away, as recommended, and not contribute to or participate in the violence they face every single day. They become members of a subculture of society that does not receive much support or recognition for the challenges they face by making that decision. As such, they grapple with mental health issues of a different caliber, one that doesn’t manifest itself as profoundly as a strike or blow but is traumatic nonetheless. The toughest part is always walking away, finding fifty different ways to not expose oneself to the rain is not an easy task when you live in a climate prone to precipitation.
PD: How important is your Haitian heritage in the advancement of your creative voice?
Enzo: Haitians don’t shy away from difficult conversations. There is no other direction that Haitians know to move forward than that of moving forward. There is so much still going on in Haiti and our community is connected to that political structure. We are still connected to fighting two different forces. America only has to worry about America, Haitians have to worry about America, Haiti and being Black and Brown within the fight. And everyone is affected and certain people get targeted over and over. One of things I got as a kid growing up was listening to storytelling every Friday and Saturday night. You don’t get that from an MFA program, it’s an art that helps you write music like hip hop, like Haitian Soca, merengue. All of that feeds into the creative voice.
Penny Dickerson, Managing Editor
Penny Dickerson is a journalist joining The Miami Times following an Africa sojourn and 10-year freelance career in newspaper and magazine. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Lesley University, and Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Temple University.