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Ida Salomon Faubert (1882-1969) was a Haitian poet in the first half of the 20th century. Faubert enjoyed a comfortable existence as the only child of former Haitian president Lysius Salomon. After her father’s overthrow from power, Faubert was sent to France where she was raised by her mother’s relatives. While she eventually came back to Haiti for numerous visits, Faubert belonged to Paris’ bon vivant scenery. Her time in Paris, nevertheless, did not manage to erase her Haitian origins. Haiti was indeed a central theme in her work and she surrounded herself with other Haitians émigrés.

Though the name Ida Faubert is mostly remembered by Haitian literature enthusiasts, her importance for Haiti’s literary culture is undeniable. Part of the La Ronde literary generation, Faubert was amongst the first women to seriously publish in Haiti and to be both read and respected amongst her peers. Some of her more famous works include Cœur des Îles (1939) and Histoires d’Haïti et d’ailleurs (1959).

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"I don’t look Haitian" - a poem

If anyone knows her name, please share. She’s amazing!

Roxane Gay, An Untamed State

              

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Roxane Gay joined me on Between The Covers to discuss her debut novel, An Untamed State (listen to the interview here).  We talked about why she wanted to write a book that forced the reader to look away and look back again, the dangerous addictiveness of fairy tales for women, the careless language of sexual violence and why she isn’t a fan of trigger warnings and wouldn’t want one for her book.  This and much more.  Hope you’ll tune in and hear one of our generations go-to commentators on race, gender, identity and power.

My Grandmother Danced by Mirlande Jean-Gilles

My grandmother danced on duvalier’s head
with one red shoe and one blue
I come from coconut groves
where men’s heads hang like ripe mangoes
no matter what the season
My grandmother would sing these men down
bless the back of their necks with aloe and comfrey
but they would not respond

We watched public burnings,
embers blamed no one
but danced their fiery dance
Grandma had herbs, money and gun powder stuffed into her brassiere
Murder tucked demurely within the folds of her skirt
At five she sang me redemption lullabies
and I dreamt war, blood red

We were hungry
and papa doc was taking the food
from between our teeth
grabbing our real papas in the darkness
and the flames
and their screams
would illuminate midnight
outshine the moon

My grandmother danced on papa doc’s skull
with one red shoe and one blue

We played on human bones in Haiti
death left on our swings
in our schools
random fingers as bookmarks in our bibles
And the white god laughed
his crucifix too heavy on our necks
drowned us during baptisms
we couldn’t fly any more
couldn’t astral project our bodies to tree tops or foothills
they got weapons for that now

Unlike past slave revolts
where entire cargo would disappear
(ya’ll never heard about that)
lightening during sunshine
rivers and tidal waves
white babies speaking in tongues
after sucking black breast
did you hear of the slave master
trying to rape
woman black
and she laughed and laughed
turned to jackal, to donkey
then she turned into his own daughter

Men who knocked on doors with heads tilted far left
and cords still wrapped around their necks
tongues eggplant
eyes blasted
(ya’ll never heard that stuff)
but you understand
transportation was provided
first class to Paris
to those that peeled the richness of their people
renamed our magic, voodoo
cloaked us in embargoes
signed over revolution and land
our families pay rent on homes that they own
they want our children to pay for the freedom their parents took
want to open Gap factories and Disney pays my aunt three dollars a day
for fourteen hours
fills my cousins with birth control
empties them with hysterectomies

They’re not afraid of us anymore
now that they got their language tattooed to the roof of our mouths
got us singing gospels to heaven
we forgot we were heaven
they’re not afraid of us anymore
got us running to bleach

but ain’t all of us scared

We’ve got spirits forcing us off roofs
making us find our wing span
practicing camouflage on the A train
and finding herbs in Prospect Park at four a.m.

We’ve got little Clinton dolls in our coach purses
if we could only find some hair samples…
masking drum beats in hip hop
spells written between the lines of text books

I now dance on Clinton’s head with one red shoe and one blue

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I was just re-watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk on “The Danger of a Single Story,” and it made me realize just how lucky I was, as a child, to have access to children’s books written by Haitian authors, set in Haiti. One such author was Margaret Papillon. Her books showed young children the beauty, magic, and wealth of the Haitian culture. They allowed us to celebrate our culture before we even truly knew what it was. 

I didn’t understand it then, but now I realize, one of the reasons I loved her books was that I could imagine myself as the main characters; picturing myself as smart, curious, and adventurous. 

This is important. Representation matters.This matters. 

*I need to go back and read them as an adult to see if there are serious issues. 

The only way to save them is to immediately sever them from the place where they are born. Otherwise they will always spend too much time chasing a shadow they can never reach… San manman, motherless, was the way you described someone who was lost, brutal and cruel. Fantom, ghost, was another. People without mothers, it was believed, were capable of anything.
—  Edwidge Danticat, “Claire of the Sea Light”, 2010
That night at the supper table, just as he had during every other difficult moment in his life—he reminded himself of his own personal creed, that life was neither something you defended by hiding nor surrendered calmly on other people’s terms, but something that you lived bravely, out in the open, and that if you had to lose it, you should also lose it on your own terms.
—  Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker

Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.

Coming from where I come from, with the history I have - having spent the first twelve years of my life under both dictatorships of Papa Doc and his son, Jean-Claude - this is what I’ve always seen as the unifying principle among all writers. This is what, among other things, might join Albert Camus and Sophocles to Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Osip Mandelstam, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Ralph Ellison.

Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, a future that we may have yet to dream of, someone may risk his or her life to read us. Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, we may also save someone’s life, because they have given us a passport, making us honorary citizens of their culture.

— 

-“Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work” by Edwidge Danticat.

——

This gave me serious chills last night.  Need to own this book now.

Who is Felix Morisseau-Leroy?


                                    

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FELIX MORISSEAU-Leroy was one of Haiti’s popular heroes. Through his poems, plays and articles, he was the person who made Creole, the language spoken by ordinary men and women in Haiti, as acceptable as the French taught in schools. It was thanks in no small part to his efforts that Jean-Bertrand Aristide declared it an official language when he became president in 1991, at a ceremony where Morisseau-Leroy was one of the guests of honour.

He was born in Grand Gosier, near the historic southern port of Jacmel, in 1912. His family were well-to-do mulattos, and he learnt both French and later English. It was in Jacmel that he met his wife Renee, who said she admired his prowess as a horseman; he responded that she was the main inspiration for his literature.

In the 1940s, after studying at graduate school at Columbia University in New York, he taught in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. It was then that he became interested in the Creole language spoken in the streets, but rarely written down. The end of the decade was one of the few periods in Haitian history when new ideas could flourish in relative freedom, and Morisseau-Leroy used the opportunity to write political poems and sketches.

But it was in 1953 with his production of the classical Greek tragedy Antigone in his own Creole version that Morisseau-Leroy really made his mark. The play was set in a rural Haitian village, with King Creon portrayed as a powerful voodoo priest. This was the first time that many Haitians realised that their oral language was capable of nuance, analysis and profundity.

Unfortunately, the 1950s also saw the Duvalier family take power in Haiti, and any chance for free expression was soon snuffed out. When Morisseau- Leroy was offered the chance of putting on Antigone in Creole in Paris, he went to France and decided to stay there, fearing he would be arrested if he returned to Haiti.

Then began an unsettled period which saw him teaching in France, Nigeria and later Ghana and Senegal, where he was important in promoting popular theatre movements. By 1981, he had moved to Miami, and was welcomed by the Haitian exile community, already creating a lively culture of their own. He was hailed as the forerunner of many of their efforts; as one of them said on his death: “He realised that for people to understand the problems, they need to be taught in their own language, not a language they don’t understand. Otherwise, they’re being mystified, they’re being shown a lack of respect.”

Despite encroaching blindness, Morisseau-Leroy continued to write a weekly column about Haiti in the periodical Haiti en Marche. He returned briefly to Haiti after the fall of the Duvaliers in 1986, and attended Aristide’s inauguration in 1991. But apart from these short trips, he preferred the memories of his home country, which he put into the work of which he was most proud: an epic novel called Les Djons d’Haiti Tom (“People of Haiti with Courage”), in which he tells the story of the people of his own town Jacmel from the time of the US invasion of 1915 to the ousting of President Aristide in 1991.

The novel was published three years ago; but perhaps the most fitting tribute to Felix Morisseau-Leroy and his influence was the staging earlier this year of his Creole version of Antigone to a packed audience in a Miami theatre: the kind of mixture of races, traditions, and languages to which he devoted his life.

Felix Morisseau-Leroy, poet and playwright: born Grand Gosier, Haiti 1912; married (two sons, one daughter); died Miami, Florida 5 September 1998.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-felix-morisseauleroy-1197284.html

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Jacques Romain-la passion d’un pays(passion for a country) clip 1/2 (by haitianhistory)

Who were spiralist authors and how did they influence both Haiti’s and broder francophone Caribbean literature?

 ”Haiti has long been relegated to the margins of the so-called New World. Marked by exceptionalism, the voices of some of its most important writers have consequently been muted by the geopolitical realities of the nation’s fraught history. In Haiti Unbound, Kaiama L. Glover offers a close look at the works of three such writers: the Haitian Spiralists Frankétienne, Jean-Claude Fignolé, and René Philoctète. While Spiralism has been acknowledged as a crucial contribution to the French-speaking Caribbean literary tradition, it has not been given the sustained attention of a full-length study. Glover’s book represents the first effort to consider the works of the three Spiralist authors both individually and collectively, filling an important gap in postcolonial Francophone and Caribbean studies.” 

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