I dance with words

Posted on March 8, 2021

As part of the Mois de la poésie (a poetry event organized each March by the Bureau des affaires poétiques), we invite you to immerse yourself in this poetic post and discover or rediscover the infinite beauty of this literary genre.

Happy and sad. Calm and anxious. Hopeful and hopeless. Powerful and powerless … The antonyms of my feelings and emotions often battle each other for control of my mind. Their violent pummelings seek to drag me down into the abyss of loneliness, which, like a predator, opens its gaping maw, ready to swallow me up. Luckily, in these turbulent moments, good friends rush to save me from falling down the precipice. Words. I take refuge in them, especially in books. They help me escape, travel, live a life I could only dream of …

Going further in their fervour to save me, my friends go out of their way to cheer me up and make me feel better about having teetered on the edge of the void. Gallantly, words offer me their hand and invite me to dance with them. When I hear an unfamiliar rhythm, I hesitate for a moment because I’m afraid I won’t be good enough. The fear of writer’s block. But when they keep insisting, words fill my mind and refuse to leave, and I give in rather quickly. After much reading and reflecting, I welcome the inspiration that eventually comes to me.

When I step onto the dance floor, I’m a little shy. I don’t know which steps to do, which words to begin with. I write whatever streams out of my head. I need some time, even just a little, to get used to the music, to find the beat and move to the rhythm. Which of my emotions do I want to distill? Which of my feelings do I want to cultivate? So first I let the words lead me in the dance. Coursing through me, they take me with them to the beat of their choice. They stream past me, each one performing their routine, often a solo. The bolder ones grab me and make me twirl, sway and swing.

These polysemous monozygotes toy with me and question my ability to dance. I mix up the rhythms and dance the foxtrot instead of the Charleston. So I seek to right my wrongs, even if I don’t have the right to at all.

Mischievous homonyms, like fraternal twins, make me doubt which foot to put forward first, which side to lead with, which direction to take … Am I on point or on pointe?

Kind synonyms let me execute different patterns to the same rhythm. With them especially, I dance, swing my hips and boogie like no one’s watching.

And so I gain confidence and take charge. Now, they follow my rhythm. That’s precisely what they were waiting for. Whether I make them spin, waltz or swing, the words obey me. Sometimes, it’s a waltz, a tango or a bolero. Sometimes, it’s a zouk or a ballad. Other times, it’s jazz, blues or reggae music. As I gain control, I conjugate them as I see fit, and I increase the tempo. I put a suffix here, a prefix there. I find just the right figure of speech; I touch up the syntax. I throw in a metaphor here, a saying there. And we’re off again! I change the register to suit my emotions. Salsa, merengue, bachata, rumba. Beguine, bèlè, kompa or maloya. Coupé-décalé, zouglou, tchinkoumin or agbadja …

Beautiful choreographies flow forth from our embrace. At first, I start with a few tentative steps, which grow into sequences and then into beautiful full-length ballets. Sometimes simple and unassuming, sometimes sophisticated.

And so my word friends gradually become sentences, paragraphs, entire texts and even poems. They, too, are sometimes ordinary, sometimes extraordinary. I’m astonished by this metamorphosis before me and very proud of it, too.

I like to dance as much as I like to write. Music speaks to my soul, but my words reveal it.

Translated by Josephine Versace, Language Portal of Canada


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Get to know Annie-Josiane Sessou

Annie-Josiane Sessou

Annie-Josiane Sessou passed away in October 2022. She described herself as an author with a scientific background. She drew pride, strength and hope from the diversity and richness of the French language. As a Francophone, she was deeply passionate about her language and used writing not only as an outlet but as an art form to express beauty.


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Submitted by Carole on March 8, 2021, at 9:47

Absolutely beautiful! Well done Annie-Josiane!!

Submitted by Annie-Josiane Sessou on March 26, 2021, at 9:07

Thanks so much Carole.