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The soothing power of writing poetry
Provo, UTAH — Michaëlle Martial, a Haitian-born author and spoken word artist, is dedicated to empowering other women through her art and poetry. A domestic violence survivor who lost an infant daughter, all while experiencing her mother’s early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Martial channels her experiences into her writing.
“I chose poetry because I always loved to hear the words come to life when I read a piece. Even as a young girl I’ve always loved fables, especially French fables,” she told PBS Utah’s “Verve.”
Martial said fables helped open up her imagination, adding that one of her favorites is “La Cigale et la Fourmi” (The Ant and the Grasshopper) by Jean de La Fontaine, “which taught me, just like my mother did, that in life we must be prepared, even for the unexpected sometimes.”
As a teenager, she tried drawing and painting, but writing and working with words came more naturally. As a Latin Souk dancer, the rhythms she grew up listening to can be felt in her work.
“You can hear it in the way I arrange my pieces and the way I voice them out,” Martial said.
A self-described introvert, she felt writing was a way to help her organize her thoughts and convey her feelings better.
“I don’t like to do generic,” she says. “I don’t like blanket answers.”
Becoming a poet didn’t just happen overnight for Michaëlle. “I never thought I would be a poet. I couldn’t even say out loud I was a poet.” Martial said artists were not valued when she was growing up in Haiti.
“Everyone told me to be an accountant or a doctor, something more lucrative. And that’s sad to me,” she said.
Through her craft, through the practice of self-care, Martial inspires other women to love themselves and have a positive body image. And as an activist, she is involved in the local community. Martial is the organizer of Relaxation through Verse, a recurring “Poetry Salon” where local poets and artists perform in an intimate setting at local art galleries and bookstores. She also leads Cupcakes for Breakfast, a kid-friendly poetry reading held quarterly throughout Utah. The author also advocates for immigrants and the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
“When you can take something very ugly, and put it in words that can be healing or soothing to someone else. That’s poetry to me,” she said.
This report originally appeared on local station PBS Utah’s “Verve.”
PBS Utah airs award-winning, locally produced documentaries and series. PBS Utah’s weekly show, This Is Utah, celebrates the diverse people and communities that call Utah home.