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Decolonizing poetry: Césaire , O’Hara, Bishop, Brathwaite

Decolonizing poetry: Césaire , O’Hara, Bishop, Brathwaite. Decolonizing poetry. Césaire : Negritude /surrealism [ Retour/detour (return/detour, or reversion/ diversion)] O’Hara : Public and intimate address (‘ personism ’), connection across boundaries of nation, race, gender and sexuality

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Decolonizing poetry: Césaire , O’Hara, Bishop, Brathwaite

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  1. Decolonizing poetry: Césaire, O’Hara, Bishop, Brathwaite

  2. Decolonizing poetry • Césaire: Negritude/surrealism [Retour/detour (return/detour, or reversion/ diversion)] • O’Hara: Public and intimate address (‘personism’), connection across boundaries of nation, race, gender and sexuality • Bishop: Questioning the binaries of home/away, we/they, foreign/domestic • Brathwaite: ‘Nation language’

  3. Obscurity It is very common today to complain of the ‘obscurity’ of poetry. ... This obscurity, if it is not intrinsic, has been bestowed on poetry by strangeness and distance (perhaps of its own making) and for the sake of an encounter. (Paul Celan, “The Meridian”)

  4. Desperate conversation “The poem becomes conversation – often desperate conversation. “Only the space of this conversation can establish what is addressed, can gather it into a ‘you’ around the naming and speaking I. But this ‘you,’ come about by dint of being named and addressed, brings its otherness into the present. Even in the here and now of the poem – and the poem has only this one, unique, momentary present – even in this immediacy and nearness, the otherness gives voice to what is most its own: its time.” (Paul Celan, “The Meridian”)

  5. Qui et quels nous sommes? Admirable question!(Who and what are we? A most worthy question!)(Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land)

  6. AiméCésaire(1913-2008)

  7. Fort-de-France

  8. Negritude Our Struggle was a struggle against alienation. That struggle gave birth to Negritude. Because Antilleans were ashamed of being Negroes, they searched for all sorts of euphemisms for Negro: they would say man of color, a dark-complexioned man, and other idiocies like that. …That’s when we adopted the word nègre, as a term of defiance. It was a defiant name. To some extent it was a reaction of enraged youth. Since there was shame about the word nègre, we chose the word nègre. (Césaire, interview with René Depestre, 1967)

  9. “Haiti where negritude rose for the first time and stated that it believed in its humanity” • the old black man on the streetcar losing his “negritude” • negative definitions of negritude: “My negritude is not …” • “and negritude, no longer a cephalic index, or plasma, or soma, but measured by the compass of suffering” • “the old negritude progressively cadavers itself”

  10. Negritude, as I see it, is not a philosophy. Negritude is not a metaphysics. Negritude is not a pretentious conceptualization of the universe. It is a way of living history within history: the history of a community whose experience, to tell the truth, seems singular given its deportations and transfers of peoples from continent to continent, its memories of distant beliefs, its debris of murdered cultures. … Does one need more than that to found an identity? … I believe in the formative power of centuries of accumulated experience, of lived experience transmitted through cultures. (Césaire, “Négritude, Ethnicity, et Cultures Afro aux Amériques,” 1987)

  11. “colonisation = chosification” “colonisation = thingification”

  12. Two sources for negritude • French surrealism (André Breton, Aragon et al.) • The black writing of the “Harlem Renaissance” in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s (Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Jesse Fauset, Sterling Brown)

  13. The “I” as other in modern poetry C’est faux de dire: Je pense: on devrait dire: On me pense. … Je est un autre. (It’s wrong to say: I think: one should say: I am thought. … I is another.) – Arthur Rimbaud, letter to Georges Izambard, May 1871

  14. ‘I’ is an ‘other’ – the self or subject is defined by estrangement and multiplicity; we are strangers to ourselves But also: ‘I’ is an ‘other’ to someone else, one among others, defined by the preexisting web of the socialUmuntungumuntungabantu: a person is a person because of other people (Zulu proverb)

  15. The poetic image The image cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be – the greater its emotional power and poetic reality. (Pierre Reverdy, Nord-Sud, March 1918)

  16. Origins of surrealism “… beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella” (Lautréamont)

  17. The four cardinal points are three – South and North Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893-1948; co-founder of literary journal Nord-Sud)

  18. The postwar world order • The shift of the axis of world power from Europe to the United States in the west and to the Soviet Union in the east; • The establishment of the United Nations as, initially, a proxy for the continued global rule of the Allied powers after World War II; • The great wave of decolonization that saw most of the former colonies of Western Europe gain independence, after varying periods of protracted and violent struggle; and gaining seats in the UN General Assembly to make their voices heard

  19. “In larger freedom” We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrows to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, … and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom … have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims. Accordingly, our respective Governments … do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations. (Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, 1945)

  20. Bandung Conference, 1955 • Meeting of Asian and African states with the aim of promoting cooperation among the ‘non-aligned’ nations during the early Cold War period • Bandung Charter condemned “colonialism in all of its manifestations,” including that of the Soviet Union as well as the West; birth of the ‘Third World’

  21. “too many waterfalls” “crowded streams” “so many clouds” “mile-long, shiny, tearstains” “inexplicable and impenetrable” Continent, city, country, society: The choice is never wide and never free. And here, or there … No. Should we have stayed at home, Wherever that may be? (Bishop, “Questions of Travel”)

  22. Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s – postcard view

  23. Morro da Providenciafavelain Rio de Janeiro, 1958

  24. for if there is fortuity it’s in the love we bear each other’s differences in race which is the poetic ground on which we rear our smiles . . . the only truth is face to face, the poem whose words become your mouth and dying in black and white we fight for what we love, not are (Frank O’Hara, “Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets”)

  25. Césaire/Brathwaite ‘Return/diversion’ (retour/detour)‘Nation language’/‘Sycorax video style’

  26. Nation Language We in the Caribbean have a [...] kind of plurality: we have English, which is the imposed language on much of the archipelago. It is an imperial language, as are French, Dutch and Spanish. We also have what we call creole English, which is a mixture of English and an adaptation that English took in the new environment of the Caribbean when it became mixed with the other imported languages. We have also what is called nation language, which is the kind of English spoken by the people who were brought to the Caribbean, not the official English now, but the language of slaves and labourers, the servants who were brought in. (KamauBrathwaite, History of the Voice)

  27. Dear mama iwritinyu dis letter / wha? guess what? pun a computer o/kay? like ijine de mercantilists! well not quite! (KamauBrathwaite, “Letter Sycorax”)

  28. Caliban writes back The poem simulates a Caliban figure (“X/Self”) writing a letter to his mother Sycorax with the newfound technology of a computer. He is ecstatic about having access to one of Prospero’s communication tools, but questions the ways in which he can use it to help himself and his people. … X/Self wants to be careful that the computer, and by extension, the language he produces on it, is used to benefit the formerly colonized, and not the colonizers. (Kelly Baker Josephs, “Versions of X/Self: KamauBrathwaite’s Caribbean Discourse”)

  29. like when yurumbellin dung into de under grounn on one a dem move. in stair crace & like yufuh. get like yu wallet or some ting like dat

  30. & yucyaannevva turn back nor walk back up nor even run back up outta there cause de stair. crace crazy & creak. in & snake skinn. in it down down down

  31. Yet a sittin dung here front a dis stone face eeee lectrical mallet into me fist chipp in dis poem onta dis tab. let chiss. ellin dark. ness writin in light like i is a some. is a some. is a some body. a X pert or some thing like moses or aaron…

  32. Diversion [detour] is not a useful ploy unless it is nourished by reversion [retour]; not a return to the longing for origins… but a return to the point of entanglement, from which we were forcefully turned away; that is where we must ultimately put to work the forces of creolization, or perish. (EdouardGlissant, Caribbean Discourse)

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