Willimantic, Conn. – “Imagine one day you go to the sink, and there is no water. That is the reality in Haiti every day,” said poet and photographer Marc-Yves Regis when he visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Sept. 10. “There are 10 million people in Haiti; nine million of them don’t have water.”
Regis, a native Haitian who has written five books and worked for the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and Hartford Courant, visited campus for the first University Hour event of the semester. During his hour-long lecture, Regis shared his poetry and photography and, in doing so, a bit of his homeland.
“No well to fetch water; no water to flow from spigot,” he repeated in his thick Haitian accent as he read a poem from his book “Haiti through My Eyes.” Water scarcity, hunger and the general struggle to survive for the Haitian people are common topics of his work.
Following his reading was a slide show titled “Old Enough to Walk, Old Enough to Carry Water.” The collection of photos showed children holding and balancing buckets of water — and other materials such as baskets of fruit and boxes of donated shoes — upon their heads. This often aimless and futile journey for water happens every day, and the children carry the brunt of the work.
When he was 18 years old, Regis moved to Miami. “I have a 17-year old son. He cannot carry five gallons of water on his head, but children growing up in Haiti can.” Before he moved to the United States, Regis didn’t realize how destitute his country was. “When you have nothing to compare, you think there is no problem. I thought I was rich.”
The next poem he read was titled “Haiti, We Love You,” about the affection Haitians feel for their country despite living in such abject poverty. To further explain the situation in Haiti, Regis added, “People live on less than two dollars a day. School is a luxury; many children simply can’t go. Most people eat only once a day, sometimes just rice.”
To conclude his presentation, Regis showed another slideshow from his book “After the Shock,” which is about the Haitian earthquake of 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people. After the “25-second shock,” Regis went to the country for two weeks to document the destruction.