Brooklyn-based Author Joekenneth Museau is making moves. Over the summer, he released his first book titled, "Tales of a Troubled Romantic," hosted poetry readings, and traveled to Kingston, Jamaica to name a few. Last friday I finally got him to take a quick brunch break at Cafe Rue Dix, a French Senegalese restaurant in Crown Heights. Get to know this talented and creative force that certainly has an intriguing story.
Dapper - Tell us about yourself.
Joekenneth Museau - My name is Joekenneth Museau. I’m 23 years old. I am a Brooklyn-bred spoken word artist and author of Haitian decent.
Dapper - How did you get started as a writer?
Joekenneth Museau - I began writing raps at age of 11, in an effort to prove to myself that I was better than Lil Bow Wow and Lil Romeo. Haha! The content and style of my writing underwent a transformation as I transitioned into putting together poetic pieces during the time my parents were going through a divorce. My writing became purely cathartic; a way to deal with emotional turmoil in a creative way. In my early adolescence---after my parents separated---I expanded the subject matter of my poetry. I was exposed to the literature of Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Edgar Allen Poe and many other writers during my years in high school. My affinity for language arts spurred me on to write about teenage romance, internal tribulations and social issues that I observed in my community. It was during my last two years of high school where I began writing with the idea to have my poems exist, not only on paper, but also for the purpose of performance. Thereafter, I became more acquainted with the spoken word poetry scene; influenced by Kesed, Falu, Soulful Jones, RIP MC (Jamie Lee Lewis), JQ Lyric and The Strivers Row.
Dapper - What inspired you to write the book "Tales of a Troubled Romantic"?
Joekenneth Museau - Tales of a Troubled Romantic was inspired by my personal experiences with women. I began writing love poems when I had my first girlfriend at 15 years old. Ever since then, I’ve had a number of unique interactions with the opposite sex. The work therefore covers the span of about 8 years. The theme of “troubled romance” tells of an honest self-examination; scrutinizing my imperfections and the mistakes that I’ve made in the arena of relationships. Throughout the course of the book, I make it my aim to articulate the various conflicts of a man; whether it is love versus lust or that of entertaining genuine, amorous feelings for two women at the same time. Aside from the romance, there are poems which offer social commentary on sexual abuse and woman empowerment among other issues. What must be said, however, is that I wrote TTR with men as my target audience. There are prevailing stereotypes about men masking emotion behind the veil of logic and putting on bravado rather than coming to grips with heartbreak. I want men to read this book in an effort to encourage them to cultivate emotional bravery. Vulnerability shouldn’t be taboo especially when it can aid in an individual’s growth. It is important that we admit to when we’re wrong, to express remorse and to change a wayward course in regards to our relationships with women.
Dapper - Outside of writing, what are some of your interest?
Joekenneth Museau - Well, when I’m not writing, I’m reading. I read a portion of the Bible daily. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I engage in a volunteer work to help others appreciate the Bible’s message. People who have heard or read any of my poems may have noticed that there’s a great deal of Biblical imagery in my work. Those allusions have a direct connection to my affinity for Scripture. I also have a healthy eBay addiction to quench my menswear needs. And although I’ve pledged to not to take up a Canon camera, I do enjoy mobile photography with the aid of VSCO CAM.
Dapper - You recently went on a trip to Jamaica, can you tell us about your experience? And does traveling inspire your work, if so how?
Joekenneth Museau - My recent trip to Jamaica was my second visit to the island but my first time in Kingston. Instead of spending time in a resort and enjoying the island life of a commercialized “Jamaica,” I was able to stay with a family who are native Jamaicans. I traveled with my friend, George and his mother. It was a wonderful experience! I had authentic, home-cooked Jamaican cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We drove around the city, which was a peculiar experience because the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle. I was able to visit the gorgeous Hellshire Beach and Caymans River. I even had the opportunity to visit Cockburn Pen---which is one of the “hoods” in Kingston--- where I got a haircut in an elevated, makeshift barber shop. The only thing I don’t miss about Jamaican is the cold showers that I had to take.
Although I don’t get the opportunity to travel often, I love visiting areas outside of the United States. Being in a new environment and observing the culture of the people is an enlightening experience. Traveling helps my writing in that it allows me to have a broader view of the human experience, nature, colors, tastes and the many facets of life, whether tangible or intangible. As I travel more, I’ll be able to improve my use of metaphors, similes and allusions.
Dapper - Does your writing style influence your personal style? If so, how?
Joekenneth Museau - It works the other way around. My personal style influences my writing. I’m a 90s baby. I grew up in an era where Hip-Hop culture was flourishing. The soundtrack to my upbringing is embedded in the rhythm of my work. In my younger years, my style was a product of Hip-Hop culture. Baggy jeans, logos, the Louis Vuitton coin purse hanging from my belt loop, I mean everything. As I’ve refined my style to favor a more sartorial perspective, I have also paid attention to sharpening my writing. In effect, I find myself tailoring my poems; attempting to convey an idea with the use of fewer words. But by no means am I a dandy or a college-degree intellectual. The leather jogging pants and Jordan boxes that are in my closet are a reflection of the edginess present in some of my writings.
Dapper - Name a few writers that inspire your work. Why?
Joekenneth Museau - The entire Strivers Row collective inspires me. The artists include Joshua Bennett, Miles Hodges, Carvens Lissaint, Alysia Harris, Jasmine Mans and Zora Howard. I would go on for hours if I were to specifically point out what each artist brings to the table in terms of writing and performance style. The Strivers are well-read and traveled writers. The body of their work is honest, brash, emotional, political and entirely awe-inspiring. Every time I attend one of their shows I leave with a new idea for a piece. I admire the amount of energy and dedication they put into their craft.
Dapper - What music are you currently listening to?
Joekenneth Museau - Man…I listen to so much music. I really, really love music. I know I’m one of many people who have been let down by the radio and mainstream music so I tend to scour SoundCloud in an effort to find musical gems from underground artist. Aside from the new albums by Drake and Pusha T, I’m listening to Majid Jordan, Janelle Monae, Lorine Chia, Jimi Nxir, Parley D’amour, The Internet, Quadron, Sango, BOY/FRIEND and Terrance Martin. That’s my abbreviated list.
Dapper - What projects are you currently working on?
Joekenneth Museau - I was recently featured in Street Etiquette’s SLUMFLOWER editorial. There are some pieces that I wrote which are in the print version of the editorial available for sale on SE’s website. I’m currently working on a collaborative project with Chicago-based photographer Lawrence Agyei entitled “Seams of Sorrow.” I am also in the beginning stages of my next book which is a dedication to my late mother, Josette Rene-Museau, who passed away from cancer last year. I did a 14-day photographic tribute about her via my Instagram account earlier this year entitled “May Flowers” with the hashtag #MayFlowersbyJK. The book will include the textual content from the tribute as well as a collection of photographs to capture the essence of what I was able to do through use of my iPhone. The book will include brand new poems and memoirs. Admittedly, it will be an extremely emotional undertaking. However, I want to release “Days After Your Departure” to assist caregivers and loved ones to those battling cancer and/or who have lost a loved in death to the illness. My motto is “you can only have memories if you create them now.” I want to encourage family and friends to spend as much quality time with a loved one fighting aggressive cancer so that they can reflect on the good times that they’ve had after the fight is over. The memories I have of my mother helped me tremendously during my grieving process. I just want to help others to do the same through a creative means.
Dapper - Where can we follow your journey?