Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adieu, Aimé Césaire

[photo credit: Parti Progressiste Martiniquals (PPM), Ville de Fort-de-France]
In America, race belongs on the table of dialogue and the itinerary of change, and always has. From the horror and shame of the Middle Passage and centuries of race-based slavery, to racial profiling, to the Obama/Clinton campaign, the demand for equality of rights, opportunity, and inner and outer wealth must continue.

Within poetry, one of the significant changes in the dialogue of race came through the voice of Aimé Césaire, who in 1939 completed the first version of his Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Cahier d'un retour au pays natal). Amid his detailed observations of his land, Martinique, Césaire brought forth the concept of negritude -- not simply pride but joy in being black.

His death on April 17 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, where he served as mayor for some fifty years, is saluted with a brief obituary in the International Herald Tribune. But I like best the (French-language) tribute to him at and I recommend a visit to the site, even if you don't speak French; make sure to leave the sound on.

There are a number of editions of the Cahier; also of great value is Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry, translated and introduced by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith (U. California Press, Berkeley, 1983).

1 comment:

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