Up and coming poet and musician, Chris Lilley, shares his inspiration for his new poetry collection Je Suis Noir. The 24-year-old lives in the Bronx, and studied at the Manhattan School of Music for both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in opera music.
The collection, Lilley shares, was first conceived in November of 2015. Je Suis Noir (or, I Am Black), is a stringing together of the author’s responses to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and individual tragedies that have taken place. The poem “Phobia” initiated this responsive writing, which was written after the Paris terrorist attacks.
“I looked at the collection of poetry I had in my notebook and it seemed to have a common theme” says Lilley. “There was a yearning to put something together I could call my own”
Much of Lilley’s background and upbringing serves as the foundation where this project was built upon. The artist expresses a disconnect he felt from his school and church after these events in the news would take place was what lead him to penning many of these verses.
“I understand why the disconnect would be there” the poet shares. “But it didn’t lend itself to an environment where I could talk to other black Christians about”
Lilley began writing spoken word poetry 3 years ago, and committed to performing and writing regularly in 2014. He has performed with the Christian-based poetry group True Voices since the start, as well as the New Testament Temple Church of God’s previous ministry “Word Up”
Lilley plans to work on a new book of poetry that is centered around suicide and the aftermath of his own story of an attempted suicide. Though a difficult topic, Lilley shares a newly found bravery and courage that derives from both his faith and his writing. “I’m still trying to get over that shame” Lilley says. “If I wasn’t an artist I wouldn’t of had the courage to share my story”
Lilley read two of his poems for CreativeNYC during his interview. Listen to both “The one where bullets are like flowers” and “Phobia” below