Sipay shows strength of Seychellois poetry


Sipay is a locally-produced poetry magazine launched recently as a collaboration between Seychellois poets and French poet Fabien Le Dizes.

A classical Latin and Greek scholar, and a teacher of philosophy as well as French classical literature in Seychelles, Fabien shares his love of poetry in conversation with Peter Pierre-Louis.

Sipay magazine is the initiative of Fabien Le Dizes, an instructor at the Ecole Française des Seychelles, and the French embassy’s Claude Collin, who is interested in promoting the French language and culture through cultural projects – one of the international aims of inter-cultural relations and cooperation between friendly countries.

Fabien Le Dizes (right) with local poet Reuben Lespoir at the official launch of Sipay

“In our discussion at the Cooperation Services last November,” said Fabien, “I told Mr Collin that poetry is one of my greatest passions. He replied that there are many poets in Seychelles but it’s difficult to get their work published because there is no publication for poetry.

“That’s when the idea for starting a poetry magazine occurred to me, and Mr Collin immediately assured me the French embassy would be willing to help and promote it.”

Fabien, who has many years’ experience as a reader for poetry magazines in France, decided he would finally try to launch a poetry magazine in Seychelles as he has worked with many other poets in France doing desktop publications and promoting poetry readings and recitals.

He has also been involved in related activities such as the Sware Lapoezi of the writers’ association Lardwaz, which is now a familiar literary activity, or the literary evening that the Creole Institute, in collaboration with Lardwaz, held recently to celebrate Unesco’s Reading Week.

Well-known Seychellois poet Maggie Faure-Vidot, who has represented her country at many poetry recitals and festivals internationally, enthusiastically supported Fabien’s project and contacted members of various literary institutions such as the Creole Institute, the National Arts Council and Lardwaz, as well the poetry writing workshop, to set up a working committee to determine how they could fund and produce such a magazine, especially at a difficult time when finance is a serious issue.

Fabien said: “Eventually poets who displayed enthusiasm and interest in contributing to our project were invited to join our editorial committee, and we gave different tasks to each individual so the work of financing, producing, printing, publishing, promoting and distributing this magazine could be shared equally.

“At the outset many poets turned up, but when it came down to helping, only a few came forward. I’m happy to say they were individuals who wanted to help us, so we set up our editorial committee with seven committed members because we wanted people who understand the hard work involved in such a venture. This is so especially when time is limited, when people have many other commitments and we all want to do our own thing.

“Therefore serving the literary community in Seychelles can only be an act of love because we are all volunteers and we have no money to produce the next issue – we’re depending entirely on generous sponsors.
“Money will always remain a constraint as we will not make any money from sales unless we raise the level of production and printing of our magazine, and also maintain high literary standards so we can attract a broad range of readers in all three languages – French, Creole and English.”

When Maggie and Fabien were looking for a name for the magazine, they came up with sipay or crab cocotier as it is the only crab that can climb a coconut tree, besides having the ability to carry objects as well as peel a coconut, and is also known as a very serious voler of anything interesting that comes its way.

“I wanted a word that would have a close connection with Seychelles’ culture, Seychelles’ literature and at the same time symbolise the strength of poetry; and then the idea of naming it after a local crab came to mind,” said Fabien.

 “Crabs symbolise the link between the land and the sea, and it seemed so appropriate a name for a poetry magazine from a group of islands such as Seychelles.

“There is no other little animal that is as strong as the sipay, has such powerful pincers and will do anything to achieve its aims, no matter how impossible. And so the sipay crab is a fitting symbol for us poets who will need to work against impossible odds to achieve our objectives, and for me poetry is just like that crab.

 “Moreover, a crab crawls along very slowly but eventually reaches its destination in its own way, exactly like a poem!”

Asked why he chose to publish a magazine based on selected themes, Fabien replied: “In order to make all poets understand why themes can make such a magazine more easily appealing to a wider readership.

“Themes allow us to produce a more coherent publication and will also help to distinguish clearly between one edition and another. At the same time a theme challenges the poet to write new and different poems instead of simply digging through piles of old poems and finding one to submit to us, which makes it all too easy, when in reality writing poetry is hard work!

“It also makes it so much easier for the selection committee to pick out the best poems on a particular theme, and this will expedite the production of the magazine for us.”

“Why Coeur et Nature for the first issue?” I asked.
 “The theme was chosen by both Maggie and me, as we wanted to find a subject that preoccupies the Seychellois,” said Fabien.

 “And we immediately thought of something related to feelings and also to the environment, and so we ended up with Coeur et Nature.

“However, when we received submissions we concluded that Seychellois poets are more interested in matters of the heart rather than the natural world, because most poems were related to love and everything associated with relationships, which personally came as a surprise to me!”
“Sipay Numéro 2 will be out on July 14, Jour de La Bastille, to celebrate what is very much a French theme, la liberté”, said Fabien, “and consequently all other themes also connected in some way with the idea of liberty, such as slavery, but also all other aspects of enslavement, be it emotional or psychological; the idea of choice as a means to liberation; the concept of the human condition and the right to freedom and liberty; and also contemporary slavery in its various forms and disguises.”

The magazine is shared between a poète invité or guest poet, lumière sur un poète (spotlight on a poet) and finally poets who have responded to the theme and satisfied the criteria for selection.

The guest poet will be chosen by Fabien, who is very good at finding internationally known poets to contribute to the development of contemporary Seychellois poetry in French, while the spotlight on a poet will feature all early poets who have made an important contribution.

In the second issue, the first Seychellois poet Daniel Varigault de Valenfort is honoured, while in the previous issue the famous poet Antoine Abel took the spotlight.

“It was our way as poets to honour him as one of the first poets to pave the way for us, and also a way of remembering his passing just a few years back,” said Fabien.

Fabien, what kinds of poems are you expecting to publish in this magazine, which will feature poets from Seychelles and the Indian Ocean islands, as well as famous poets from the international poetry scene?
“First of all we are looking for good poets who are willing to write good and interesting poems on the themes set by the magazine. This is going to help the editors more easily select those poems that deserve to be published in Sipay,” he replied.

“Generally we will be looking for poems that have something new to say on the theme: poems that will surprise the reader and offer a new angle, a fresh look, a new insight or perspective on the subject.”

What do you, the poet, want the reader to experience, to enjoy, learn or know that he or she does not already know? In other words, how does the poet interact with the subject in order to enlighten the reader or enhance the life or experience of the reader through reading his poem?
“In my view, a good poem should be able to entice the reader to read it over and over again and make it part of his or her experience; that for me is a very good poem,” he answered very sincerely.

“Also, there is the use of the three languages of our publication, French, Creole and English; how does the poet manipulate any of these three languages in an interesting and possibly a very meaningful and unusual way?”

Finally, I asked him: “What do you love most about poetry?”
“I most appreciate the poem that is very precise, concise, and will still sustain its power and message with only a few words, and yet manage to impact your consciousness in order to change something inside you forever! Economy of words to create the maximum effect – that’s my poetic ideal!”

Fabien elaborated on this concept of the poem by saying: “I’ve always been a traveller throughout my life, and also in my mind, and if you want to travel freely you have got to get rid of most of your luggage.

Likewise, with a simple poem you can travel far, very far…I hope Sipay will give Seychellois readers the ticket to travel far – a one-way ticket to the deep world of poetry.”

Editor’s note: 
Peter Pierre-Louis is a Seychellois poet, poetry coach, writer, artist and freelance arts journalist. He is also a member of the Sipay editorial committee and its public relations officer.