Haiti Adrift

This is my country decked in prongs and spikes
barbed-wired from top to bottom, a world black
with the fury and bitter laughter of Haitians.
Haiti without Sunday, at the end of its rope,
a beast of misery to be tamed, a sleeping volcano
without a foreboding alarm to rouse it from the ashes!

— René Depestre
(Trans. by Anita Sagástegui)

Hàïti a la dérive

Voici mon pays garni de dents et de pointes
pays barbelé de pied en cap, monde noir
de la rage et du rire amer des Haïtiens.
Haïti sans dimanche au bout de ses peines,
le grand malheur à dompter, volcan endormi
sans réveil prévu à l’horloge de ses cendres !


Eldzier Cortor, “L’Abbatoire No. III,” c. 1967
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

Haitian poet René Depestre published his first book of poems when he was nineteen. After he followed up this success with the publication of an anti-colonial, revolutionary journal, he was imprisoned by the state and subsequently exiled. He moved from country to country for several years, stopping in Paris, Prague, Argentina, and Chile (where he met Pablo Neruda) before returning to Haiti. He hoped to contribute to the nation-building project led by his childhood friend, François Duvalier, but soon distanced himself from Duvalier’s dictatorship. He was forced to again leave Haiti. He moved to Cuba where he had friends in the Communist Party. In 1978, disillusioned with Castro’s state, Depestre left Cuba for France.