This Land, My Beloved: A Trilingual Anthology of Contemporary Haitian Poetry / Tè mwen renmen an : Yon antoloji trileng pwezi ayisyen kontanporen / Cette terre, mon amour : Une anthologie trilingue de la poésie haïtienne contemporaine
Edited by par Elizabeth Brunazzi, Denizé Lauture, and Tontongi
Preface: Edwidge Danticat
Trilingual Press: PO Box 391206, Cambridge, MA 02139; Tel. 617-331-2269; E-mail: email@example.com
For a denigrated language to be taken seriously, its locutors must engage in the project of its valorization and development. One can see the latest embodiment of this valorization process in the up-coming release of the trilingual anthology This Land, My Beloved / Tè mwen renmen an / Cette terre, mon amour, edited by Elizabeth Brunazzi, Denizé Lauture and Tontongi, and published by the collective publishing house, Trilingual Press.
This trilingual anthology places the Haitian language, a long-ostracized language, in validating parity with French and English, creating a true feast of linguistic dance, with diverse intertwined themes that produce, in the end, a harmonious symphony.
The poetry of Haiti, not unlike Haitian cuisine, inherits flavors of Europe, Africa, and the Americas as well as the indigenous spirits of pre-Columbian Ayiti. The Haitian poetic soul, like the soul of Vodou, is multiple, and nourished by a variety of elements both spiritual and existential. This anthology espouses neither one particular line of sensibility, nor one specific ideological manifesto, nor even less one singular school of thought, but rather the poetic expression of the Haitian manifold soul condensed within a single collection, reflecting the evolving feelings and experiences of Haitians, on the island as in the Diaspora.
In a world today where peoples are crushed under the joint assaults of the most dominating and aberrant militarism, as we see in Ukraine, Israel or in occupied Palestine; the question of the normalization of racism and hatred of the Other, as we see in the United States, or in the gangsterization of the State and of life itself, as people are currently experiencing in Haiti; yes, in such dire conditions of human calamities, it is rather astounding that our poets continue to produce, to sing the advent of another reality, to unveil the wealth of our island country Haiti on another order of valuation and determination of what is “rich” and “poor.” Indeed, how can a country that gives birth to such an upsurge of beauty and poetic wonders be called a “poor” country?!
Ultimately, there couldn’t have been a better time for the issuing of this anthology which upholds the great capacity for hope, empathy and rebellion the Haitian people are known for. As we’re writting these lines (October 2023), a significant portion of Port-au-Prince and many provinces are controlled by violent armed gangs, driven by criminal and predatory intents, maiming, raping, killing as they wish, with impunity and under the passive watch—if not tacit approval—of a weak and corrupt central government that “governs” by decrees, and which is totally illegitimate, taking advantage of the fear and chaos created by the gangs to stay in power.
The editors dedicate the anthology to the memory of five of their most illustrious contributors: Janine Tavernier, Emmanuella Turenne, Jack Hirschman, Robert Josaphat-Large, and Monica Hand who passed away before its publication. They express the hope that “their devotion to social justice and to the fulfillment of the human spirit continue to inspire generations to come.”
It is with great pleasure that we present to the public this beautiful collection of Haitian poetry, representing a great diversity of sensibilities and poetic styles. We made a conscious choice to publish our anthology in three languages: our first motivation is for the sake of linguistic inclusion and representation, which we consider important in the Haitian problematic of the moment; and another is to confer upon the mother tongue of 99% of Haitians—Haitian itself, also known as Creole or Kreyòl—the prominent place it deserves in Haitian literature. A Haitian language component, on par with the English and French components, enriches this book for all readers and students seriously interested in Haitian literature. This added value also serves to educate both the public and the literary establishment.
Unlike its 19th-century counterpart in the time of Coriolan Ardouin and Etzer Vilaire, which was mostly a mimicry of European and French literatures, contemporary Haitian poetry finds its originality in the “Creolization” which operates—as Édouard Glissant would say—by means of its multiple sources of inspiration: the Caribbean, the African, the Latin American and the European. It is nourished equally by the experience of daily life, which remains tragic and painful, by the haunting presence of a heroic past for which the country continues to pay a heavy price, and by the living dynamics of a committed diaspora turning exile into a praxis of reconquest. As we can see in many poems here, even confronted with adversity, Haitians still love, enjoy life and dream…
From the Forwords by Tontongi / To be continued…
The poets and poems selected to appear in this trilingual anthology, This Land, My Beloved / Tè mwen renmen an / Cette terre, mon amour, represent an invitation to both the general reader and the specialist to explore the reflection and interpretation of Haitian history and culture as they are experienced in the present day by Haitian poets inhabiting a diaspora extending from Haiti across numerous regions of the United States, Canada, France and Europe. The particularities of this assemblage of voices converge in the conception of the body: the body as the motherland of Haiti; the body as beloved; the body as sufferer; the outraged body; the body in lamentation; the body as resistance; the body as it is ritualized in the languages embraced by these writers.
Why a trilingual anthology? This linguistic situation represents a conversation, a dialogue within the culture, work and creative life of all these poets. The majority of these poets are bilingual, writing in both French and English, although some write and publish their work in French, English, Haitian and Spanish. The relationship between individual poets and both languages is in every case specific to the life itinerary of each of them. At the same time, and in a more general sense, the relationship to all these languages represents a journey, an itinerary of evolving language itself as it crosses frontiers that are both geographic and cultural, that incorporate wave after wave of historical event, catastrophe, displacement, suffering, struggle, resistance and renewal, as they are inscribed in the languages practiced and reinvented by individual poets…
From the Forwords by Elizabeth Brunazzii / To be continued…
Art as defiance against despair, oppression, and pain
—by Edwidge Danticat
The path of the maroon, as stated in the Charlot Lucien poem, which opens this collection, snakes its way from the cane fields to the clouds. So is the feeling of reading This Land, My Beloved: A Trilingual Anthology of Contemporary Haitian Poetry. Haiti has always had a vibrant poetic tradition, incorporating folklore, spirituality, and resistance. The writers featured in this collection are proud heirs to that tradition, exploring, just as their forebears did, history, resistance, protest, love, nature, and migration, among other subjects.
In “Middle Passage”, the late Ella Turenne honors our ancestors who fought an over-decade-long revolution that created the world’s first Black republic. She writes of those ancestors: Those same Spirits cannot be forgotten and / Their energy cannot be broken, words that we can also use to honor her as she has become our ancestor. Despite depicting adversities, the poem hints at healing, signaled by the dove soaring above the horizon, blessing the souls that are anba dlo or beneath the waters…
From the Forwords by Edwidge Danticat / To be continued…
Anthologies, through the ages, illustrate a formidable belief of conceptual freedom, the quest for a multiple and poetic beauty, seductive as well as contagious. Whether they bear the titles of literary fragments, in verse, prose, or chrestomathy, or simply the work of famous and classical writers, they always constitute a tour de force whose success flows from an adventurous, uncertain but erudite choice. Elizabeth Brunazzi, Denizé Lauture and Tontongi have very patiently united words, sounds, scents, colors and shivers that superbly build and depict the visceral LOVE that these poets feel for Haiti: their mythical land.
—Frantz-Antoine Leconte PhD, literary critic
Coutechève Lavoie Aupont, Karine Belizar, Franz Benjamin, Roseny Blanca, Vilvalex Calice, Marie-Ange Claude, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, Gary S. Daniel, Ewald Delva, Berthony Dupont, Patrick Etienne, Christ Falin-Oralus, André Fouad, Danielle Legros Georges, Lenous Guillaume- Suprice, Michel-Ange Hyppolite, Dary Jean-Charles, Jean-Dany Joachim, Gary Klang, Doumafis Lafontant, Fred Lafortune, Alex Laguerre, Denizé Lauture, Charlot Lucien, Mario Malivert, Jan Mapou, Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, Jean-Claude Martineau, Iléus Papillon, Marilène Phipps, Gahston Saint-Fleur, Jean Saint-Vil, Elsie Suréna, Patrick Sylvain, Janine Tavernier, Tontongi (Eddy Toussaint), Emmanuella “Ella” Turenne, Emmanuel Védrine, Jean-Robert Christian Victoria, Isaac Volcy, Frantz Kiki Wainwright.
Edited by: Elizabeth Brunazzi, Denizé Lauture & Tontongi
Preface & Appreciation: Edwidge Danticat, Frantz-Antoine Leconte
Poetic companions of Haiti: Indran Amirthanayagam, Bernard Block, Ricardo J. Bogaert-Álvarez, Elizabeth Brunazzi, Jack Hirschman, Aidan Rooney
Translators: Samuel Barthélemy, Joseph Bocchicchio, Nancy Naomi Carlson, Marie-Cécile Corvington Charlier, Monica Hand, Chantal Kénol, Josaphat-Robert Large, Lunine Pierre-Jérôme, Charles Rice-Davis, Maggie Vlietstra, Elizabeth Brunazzi, Tontongi, Danielle Legros Georges, Patrick Étienne, Mario Malivert, Marie-Ange Claude.
Info for ordering:
This Land, My Beloved, A Trilingual Anthology of Contemporary Haitian Poetry
Tè mwen renmen an, Yon antoloji trileng pwezi ayisyen kontanporen
Cette terre, mon amour, Une anthologie trilingue de la poésie haïtienne contemporaine
To order, go to the Trilingual Press web page, or write to: PO Box 391206, Cambridge, MA 02139; Tel. 617-331-2269.
Table of contents
History of Present Times
Retorts and Resistance
The Soul of Haiti
From left to right: Tontongi, Milady Auguste, Jill Netchinsky & Danielle Legros Georges at the Cambridge Public Library on October 28, 2023, for the launch of the trilingual anthology This Land, My Beloved. —photo Tanbou, 2023