On Oct. 7, the Stadler Center for Poetry presented world-renowned poet Kendel Hippolyte as the 2014-15 Sojka Visiting Poet.
Before beginning to read poems from his book “Night Vision,” Hippolyte asked the scattered audience to move up into the rows closest to him to better unify himself with the audience. Two prints of his book were raffled off at the end of the evening, and the lucky winners were able to get their new copies signed by the author.
Hippolyte said that he finds inspiration for his poetry in his views about how the world should be. All types of sights and sounds can become the stimuli for a poem “just like that,” Hippolyte said, while snapping his fingers for emphasis.
“[My poetry] is usually a criticism of society or individuals or myself for that matter, or a commendation–a celebration–of society where I think ‘Yeah. This is how it ought to be,’” Hippolyte said.
Though he refused to pick a favorite of his original poems, Hippolyte admitted that certain ones have resonated more deeply with him than others.
“Sometimes you learn a lot from finishing a particular poem and taking it through to where it wants to go. It teaches you a lot about poetry,” Hippolyte said.
Hippolyte cited a piece in “Night Vision” that he wrote for his son titled “Mamoyi” as a poem that holds a special place in his heart.
“It goes to places within me that no other poem goes,” Hippolyte said.
In realizing that writer’s block is just a part of the writing process, Hippolyte decided not to stress about its occurrence. Whenever his ideas temporarily stop flowing, he consumes his time with his other fields of expertise, including playwriting and directing.
“It’s a part of how [writing] is. I don’t worry about it,” Hippolyte said. “The most difficult aspect of writing a poem is staying close and true to that knot of feeling that you have. Memory can play tricks on you. You need to re-experience, as closely as you can, what gave rise to that memory in the first place.”
In some of the poems that Hippolyte recited, like “Snow” and “Idioetry,” he showed off his musical skills, singing or even scatting phrases and popping his lips to the rhythm of the poem. Often before he began reading a poem he told the audience a humorous or moving story of how that poem developed in his mind.
Hippolyte encourages everyone to jot their thoughts down on paper, regardless of whether or not they want to be become a published writer.
“It keeps you in touch with your inner life–what you truly feel, what you truly think. It gives you a chance to be honest with yourself.”