Max Rippon: “Saint-Martin, an intimate homeland”


For the 15th edition of the Saint-Martin Book Fair, the poet Max Rippon from Marie-Galante met with students from the vocational school on Thursday, June 1st. He presented Regards, his most recent book published in 2013, to first year students of Business Administration who studied his poems as well as students from a special education (ULIS) unit and students in Grade 11 and 12 from electrical engineering. We took the opportunity to interview him.

Why did you come to Saint-Martin?

I’m here to visit the Saint-Martin Book Fair as I am one of the founding fathers. I came here today to meet with students to discuss my last book Regards to talk about the idea of looking and seeing from the perspective of my experience in Marie-Galante. It is also an opportunity to start a wider conversation with them about the role of the poet, the artist, and the creator in a world under construction. It is important to me to be here with them.

Why is it important to you to meet with the younger generation of Saint-Martin?

There are two reasons why it is important. First, at the age of 73 years old, I have the experience lent by age. This allows me to meet with young people with perspective to try to understand them and to bring them something. Second, Saint-Martin holds a special place in my heart. You could say it is an intimate homeland to me since I have visited Saint-Martin for several decades. I am one of the founding fathers of the Book Fair and I’ve attended regularly over the last 15 years. It was difficult this year to attend the 15th edition of the Book Fair because it meant that I would miss the Marie-Galante Terre de Blues Festival which I founded too.

You are writing a book on Saint-Martin. What is it about?

When I was a young student at Carnot High School, I was lucky enough to spend much of my time with many classmates from Saint-Martin. Many came back to practice medicine and other professions. I want to include that journey from the restored archipelago to the Carnot High School to explain a bit how we were part of the patchwork of diversity and we were different from each other even within the school. Like a knowledge crucible. I would like to share how we saw the people of Saint-Martin when we were boarders. They were different from us by their haircuts, their food... They ate peanut butter we had never seen before. They had hair products we had never seen before. We exchanged goods and we would send each other things. We even shared knowledge. It is also a nod to those friends who are no longer with us. Before it is too late, I want to tell about the time when we met, when we unified and when we gave the country the resulting contradictions. Saint-Martin is special to me, so my goal as a writer is to advocate for action in a book written in the language of the Saint-Martin people and then have it translated into French.

Will you write in the language of Saint-Martin or will you have it translated?

I will have a helping hand. She is from Saint-Martin, born in Guadeloupe,and speaks Creole. She studied in Saint-Martin and lives currently in Anguilla as a French teacher in the Caribbean English side. In my opinion, all these qualities make her best choice to be my partner to write this book. Her name is Rita.

Will it be a novel?

I am not talking about a novel: I am talking about storytelling. This is because my writing style is not for novels. I write things on the whim of rain water. Rain drops falling from the sky, born from the clouds. Some rain drops unfortunately hit roof tops, some merge into channels. They follow the path of the gutters, a difficult course to finally arrive in a well. Other rain drops, those who are maybe a bit more vagabond, will fall in nature and be absorbed by the earth’s hungry soil. Others will meet saturation and will flow. They will make a small river. They will make a small pond. They will make a river. They will make a channel. The journey through it all to finally arrive at the sea.

Like the Caribbean settlers, when we give directions such as an address. We give the address with details that are sometimes insignificant. While going through those insignificant details, you have to find the essence. They say: “You see that door, right there? It isn’t there. It isn’t that road. You have to turn away.” Finally, when we say to someone, we say: “Georges, her mother named Bertine, who married Justin, why yes, her Godmother was such-and-such,” and in the end, we are never alone. We are in a galaxy full of people who identify you as the sum of your roots that made you. We are in a rhizome space. My first storytelling was in Marie La Gracieuse. It was written without a project, without a plan. It was a release. Like a rhizome root.

When do you think you will be done?

It is progressing well. If I were to compare it to cheese making, it is in the maturing chamber. I think it will be ready for the next Book Fair. You always have to give yourself a margin of error, even if you might go over it.

Fanny Fontan