At the turn of the nineteenth century, Haiti became the first and only modern country born from a slave revolt. During the first decades of Haitian independence, a wealth of original poetry was created by the inhabitants of the former French Caribbean island colony and published in Haitian newspapers. These deeply felt poems celebrated the legitimacy of the new nation and the value of the authors’ African origins while revealing a common mission shared by all Haitians in the young republic: freedom from oppressors and equality for all.
This powerfully moving collection of Haitian verse written between 1804 and the late 1840s sheds a much-needed light on an important and often neglected period in Haiti’s literary history. Editors Doris Kadish and Deborah Jenson have gathered together poetry that has remained largely unknown and difficult to access since its original publication two centuries ago. Featuring superb translations from the original French by Norman Shapiro and a foreword by the Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat, this essential volume stands as a monument to a turning point in Haitian and world history and makes a significant corpus of poetry accessible to a wide audience for the first time.
Doris Y. Kadish is Distinguished Research Professor Emerita of French and Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia. Deborah Jenson is Professor of Romance Studies and Global Health at Duke University. Norman R. Shapiro is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation at Wesleyan University and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
“Doris Kadish is already known for her valuable and subtle contributions to the study of women and slavery. Together with Deborah Jenson's talent and Norman Shapiro's elegant translations, we are treated to a polyphonic book which revives the lost voices of long forgotten poets. The importance and complexity of the Haitian revolution comes to life in page after page.”—Maryse Condé, author of I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
“Poetry of Haitian Independence is a magnificent accomplishment, overcoming the stigma of ‘collective bovarism’ with erudition and grace to bring readers a wealth of largely unknown, often stirring poetry that sheds light on the cultural, historical, and political development of Haiti following its 1804 independence.”—Nick Nesbitt, Princeton University
“This groundbreaking collection shines a much-needed light on the diverse styles, themes, and politics of post-Revolutionary Haitian poetry, as well as on the importance of such verse in public life. It will be enormously valuable for scholars and students of Haitian literature and history, as well as for anyone interested in nineteenth-century transatlantic literary cultures.”—Kate Ramsey, author of The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti
“This collection presents for the first time an alternative history of Haiti right after the only successful revolution of slaves in the New World. There is simply nothing like it.”—Colin Dayan, author of Haiti, History, and the Gods
“The translation is a tour de force. This is an essential missing link to work on the African diaspora, on Haiti, and most importantly not only on comparative slaveries, but on comparative revolutions.”—Alessandra Benedicty, City College of New York
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