From Wed Jan 16 08:00:11 2002
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 12:35:06 -0600 (CST)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Haiti_Progr=E8s?= <>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 19:42 01/02/02
Article: 133214
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Introducing Open Gate,; An anthology of Haitian creole poetry

By Paul Laraque, Haiti Progres his Week in Haiti, Vol. 19 no. 42, 2–8 January 2002

A version of the following text was read by the author at the Poetry Project in Manhattan on Dec. 19, 2001. The event—which featured readings by other Haitian poets including Max Manigat, Pierre-Richard Narcisse, Cauvin Paul, and Denizi Lauture, as well as North American poet Jack Hirschman—spotlighted Open Gate, the first bilingual collection of modern Haitian Creole poetry available to English readers.

It was in 1993. The Haitian military and civilian terrorists formed in the United States had already overthrown the freely elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his popular government. The new gangs massacred thousands of poor peasants and workers and did whatever they could to crush the democratic movement before it could object to capitalist exploitation and foreign domination. Thieves and murderers of Haitian descent were expelled from U.S. jails to Haiti, where they transferred the masses’ wrath from the political arena to the social field.

My youngest brother, Guy F. Laraque—who was also a poet but not a militant like my other brother Franck and me—was killed near his residence in Delmas, a suburb of the capital, Port-au- Prince, because his murderers needed his car for criminal activities. President Aristide was then in Washington D.C..

Alexander Taylor called me from Connecticut to ask what he could do to help. Alexander is the co-director of Curbstone Press, which had published my selection of French poems Camourade, translated into English by Rosemary Manno with an introduction by Jack Hirschman, my brother in poetry and in Marxism. I immediately thought of an anthology of modern Haitian poetry, both in French, the official language of my country, which we mastered to fight our masters, and in Creole, the mother tongue of the Haitian people, inherited from the African slaves. The slaves also created a new religion vodou (voodoo), a spiritual cement in their struggle for the abolition of slavery and the independence of Haiti, the first black republic in the world.

When I consulted Jack Hirschman, he wanted U.S. to concentrate only on modern Haitian Creole poetry. And that’s how Open Gate was born.

From the almost 40 authors to the co-editors, from the two translators, Jack Hirschman and Boadiba, a female Haitian poet fluent in French, Creole and English, to the publishers Alexander Taylor, Judy Doyle and other members of Curbstone Press, this wonderful book is the result of extraordinary international teamwork. Today, we have with us a few of the poets who participated in this groundbreaking anthology, as Martin Espada puts it. Unfortunately, we could not find Suze Baron, the only woman among the Haitian poets living here in the New York City. In a country dominated by men like Haiti, she is the symbol of the struggle against the triple discrimination inflicted on women on the basis of sex, color, and class. As the conscience of our people, we, the poets, reaffirm our solidarity with women, who represent in flesh and in spirit, a vital necessity and the beauty of the world.

Two days ago, on Monday, Dec. 17, a group of men, heavily armed, came from the Dominican Republic, our neighbor, to overthrow the Haitian government. The masses took to the streets, drove the traitors away, and sent a powerful message to the Haitian mulatto and black elite, and to both Washington and Santo Domingo: No more military coups with the complicity of foreign powers. The government will probably take advantage of the situation but, actually, it is the victory of the people.

I would like to conclude with the following Creole verses translated into English by Jack Hirschman. They were written for my wife Marcelle Laraque, my life companion for 48 years and my main inspiration in poetry.

legzil san ou ta lanfh
ou rache-m lan bouch dezespwa
lan fredi ou pote chalh
ou se limyh lan fhnwa.

exile without you would be hell
you pulled me from the mouth of despair
in the cold you bring fire
you’re the light in the darkness