Alumnae Poets

Lenelle Moïse '04

Lenelle Moïse

The Smith College Sophian called Lenelle Moïse “a slam-style poet, playwright, actor, author and queer feminist [who] fuses issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and politics.” Moïse, who experiments with collage as a visual medium, is truly a “genre-b(1)ending artist” in all endeavors. Her work is part love song, part battle cry, rich sounds dancing and clanging against each other. Driven by fierce momentum, her voice blurs the line between harsh-tongued hip-hop and intimate whisper.

A Haitan-American, self-identified “culturally hyphenated pomosexual poet,” Moïse has published poems and essays in several journals and anthologies, among them Utne ReaderWord Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution, and We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists.

Moïse received an MFA in Playwriting from Smith in 2004, and regularly performs at colleges, theaters, and festivals across the USA and Canada, including guest appearances at the United Nations, the Louisiana Superdome and the Omega Institute. “Expatriate” launched to critical acclaim Off-Broadway at the Culture Project in 2008, and Moïse was also a contributing writer for We Got Issues, a “performance-based dialogue” produced by Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda and the Next Wave of Women in Power. This past summer she premiered her tenth play, Merit, at the Hedgerbrook Women Playwrights Festival.

Among her many honors are 2003 New WORLD Theater Poetry Slam Champion, the James Baldwin Memorial Award in Playwriting (2003 and 2004), the Patchwork Majority Radio Award for Best Solo Album of 2007 for Madivinez, and the 2009-2010 Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Award in Poetry. Most recently, she was named Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA, for 2010-2012.

Select Poems

aside from faith,
as far as you know,
you will never have another heart.
better to grow the one you were born with.
fill it with blood & love. risk.
let the strange world sneak inside.
accept all of life in your chest.
death is the end of percussion.
breathe deeply, the music
will function. listen close.
freedom thaws in your ribcage.
dance with vehemence
to feel its fast-pumping.
tempt two lips to greet your throat
& take note: your racing pulse
will laugh & kiss back. god is strong
in the clock of your desire.
every tick, my friend, divine
confirmation: you are alive. beat. yes!
you are alive

what was green is now
dust & everyone knows
trees unleash oxygen
(another humble word
for life)

they took off
with our torn branches
beheaded our future
stuck our breath up on pikes
for all the world to see

we are a living dead example
of what happens to warriors who –
in lieu of fighting for white men’s countries
dare to fight
for their own lives

we children of god and truth
we harbingers of sexual salvation
we brave enough to love ourselves
when senegal is trying to kill us

we with warm worn wild tongues
we with long wet seeking fingers
we with broken open hearts
when gambia warns he’ll chop off our heads

we with hungry deep urgent kisses
we in stilettos pumping stonewall fists
we with genders bent to meet our souls
when falls city nebrasks rapes us

we with groins that want to talk dirty
we with mouths that want to come clean
we with legs that want to outrun
when laramie wyoming crushes our skulls

Poetry Center Reading

Spring 2011