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Headliner Spotlight: Mckendy Fils-Aimé

Mckendy Fils-Aime is a Haitian-American poet based in New England. He's described himself as a "perennial semi-finalist of the National Poetry Slam," in which he's participated nine times. He employs a bold and dynamic live reading style, a preference for direct, colloquial language, and striking metaphors.

In "To Ask a Place to Say Its Name", recorded in 2018, Fils-Aime discusses the psychological effects of gentrification, and "what it means to feel like a tourist in your home." He breaks from a narrative of a neighborhood whose cultural identity is slowing being eroded and replaced by an alien one to define an intriguing word, "cryptomnesia": "to be an unwittng plagiarist, to manifest something learned long ago as your own original thought." The poem's alienated speaker, referring to himself in the second person, recognizes that he, by leaving the neighborhood, has participated in the process. There is a sense of betrayal in consigning the place to one's past--"your mouth now the scalpel slicing into a body that has never really stopped breathing"--and a sense of disavowed loss that emerges in the speaker collecting bits of detritus in his travels. 

Listening to this poem reminds me of what I love about the slam tradition: its populism, its essay-like qualities, its larger-than-life rhetoric, its earnestness, its understanding of how systemic injustice effects individual lives. Fils-Aime describes callous landlords would "evict God from Heaven if it meant a higher profit margin," and reminds us that "being remembered shouldn't only be reserved for those with the biggest wallets." 

Mckendy Fils-Aime will read on Friday, April 12, at the 7 PM reading in the Dimond Library's Courtyard Reading Room. Check our Schedule page for more info about the Festival's offerings, and the Featured Poets page for a full bio.

--Matthew Mallory Dinaro