“Agents of the Change We Want to See”: Atelier Jeudi Soir

By Chantal Kénol

Atelier Jeudi Soir is a group of people from different horizons (educators, managers, professionals, students) who came together on a whim of sorts and developed into a viable institution. It started a little over six years ago, with a writing workshop directed by the renowned Haitian writer Lyonel Trouillot, and has turned into a neverending adventure. Some of our members have published individually, but we have also contributed as a group to anthologies and to other writing and cultural projects in Haiti and abroad. We are now a legally-constituted association, a small publishing company, and a recognized cultural agent.

In the winter of 2007, one of our founding members asked Lyonel Trouillot to design and organize a workshop for adults interested in literature and writing.  Each of us joined for his/her own reason: some because they had been writing for years without publishing or even sharing their writing with anyone; others because they were curious; others still because they wanted an outlet to explore personal issues.  However, we all stayed for the same reason: our newfound love for good literature and the pleasure of writing.  We meet at least once a week, on Thursday evenings, to read, talk about literature, and share our productions with one another.

In 2009, Éditions Atelier Jeudi Soir published Le désespoir des Anges, its first publication and also the first book by Henry Kénol, a member of the Atelier. The Editions have now published over a dozen books, including fiction, poetry, and anthologies. The two primary goals of the Editions are to publish writers’ first books and to make books published abroad by renowned Haitian writers such as Georges Castera, Évelyne Trouillot, and Lyonel Trouillot available and affordable to a wider public.

The Association Atelier Jeudi Soir has contributed to many literary projects with other individuals and groups and animated writing workshops for youths and adults in order to foster good  practices and invest in the future of our literature. These workshops were held sporadically throughout the years, by the Atelier or in collaboration with other institutions, but the Association has recently agreed to organize permanent workshops throughout the year at the Institut Français d’ Haiti, the first of which took place from November 12 to December 12, 2012

The January 2010 earthquake rocked our group badly: one of our founding members died at her place of work; another member lost his two-year-old son. Furthermore, among all the personal human and material loss suffered by almost every one of us, the house where we held our weekly meetings collapsed, trapping inside its rubble, and nearly killing, the young daughter of our hostess.

Four months after the earthquake, in May 2010, the French publishing company Actes Sud and the magazine Le Point co-produced a collection of testimonies and creative texts around this devastating event written by members of Atelier Jeudi Soir and other renowned writers. All profits from the sale of this anthology, Haiti parmi les vivants (Haiti among the Living), are being donated for reconstructing the cultural and educational organizations in Haiti. And in May 2011 Atelier Jeudi Soir published a collection of poems, Je ne pardonne pas au malheur (I Do Not Forgive Misfortune), by Mark-Endy Simon, who lost his son in the earthquake.

Since the earthquake, Atelier Jeudi Soir has relocated at least twice, expanded its membership, and joined collaborative efforts to rebuild the cultural environment of our country in an attempt to rekindle the flame and foster new hope. Our permanent membership is now over fifteen people, young and older, women and men, and is steadily growing. We now contribute a monthly section, “Les Cahiers du Jeudi Soir,” two pages of creative texts, poems, and short prose, to Le Nouvelliste, a local newspaper. In these columns, we also welcome and select for publication the best among the writings that the public at large sends us. Some of our contributors have been invited to join the collective, and that is how the group enriches and renews itself.

Atelier Jeudi Soir has recently partnered with PEN Haiti, a member of PEN International, to start a new literary magazine, Demanbre, whose first issue was released in September 2012. 

The earthquake has awakened in us, more strongly than ever, the desire to live, to write, to share and to promote our love for good literature. It has also given what began as a personal quest a social and community-oriented dimension. Mostly, we are now acutely conscious, each in his/her own way, not only of our individual circumstances and trials, but also, and most importantly, of our responsibility to our country, to become true agents of “the change we want to see.”

In addition to those mentioned above, Atelier Jeudi Soir’s collective publications include: Les Cahiers de l’Atelier, vol. I, numéro 1, Pluriel du sang, Éditions Presses Nationales d’Haïti, November 2007;  Les Cahiers de l’Atelier, vol. I, numéro 2, Dialogues du désir, Éditions des Antilles, July 2008; Un arc-en-ciel pour Cité Soleil, selected drawings from the Site Solèy demen contest organized by FOSACH and the Canadian Embassy in Haiti, with texts by members of the collective Atelier Jeudi Soir, under the direction of the writer Lyonel Trouillot, October 2007; Riveneuve Continents, number 8, Les mots passants, June 2009.


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