The great revolutionary poet
By Tontongi (Editor of Tanbou) – 10 March, 2007
The great revolutionary poet Paul Laraque died on March 8, 2007, at 5 AM, in New York; he was 86 years old (September 21, 1920 – March 8, 2007). He is survived by his his brother Franck Laraque, children Max, Serge and Danielle, and many grand-children, nephews and nieces.
One of the greatest poets of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Paul Laraque united a beautiful and surrealist lyric poetry with political consciousness to “changer la vie.” For him poetry could be a “fighting weapon” on behalf of people struggling against class exploitation, foreign domination and cultural alienation, in the tradition of Jacques Roumain, Massillon Coicou, Louis Aragon, Nicolás Guillén, and Pablo Neruda.
Paul was one of the poets who welcomed Alisa and André Breton at Port-au-Prince airport during the Surrealist guru’s first visit to Haiti in December 1945. He left Haiti in 1961 for New York City, USA, where his wife Marcelle rejoined him the following year. Paul was deprived of his Haitian citizenship from 1964 to 1986 for opposition to the Duvaliers’ dictatorship. He received Cuba’s Casa de las Americas Poetry Prize in 1979 for his work Les armes quotidiennes / Poésie quotidienne (“Everyday Weapons / Everyday Poetry”). His published works include, among others, Ce qui demeure (“What has remained”), Festibal (“Slingshot”), Camourade, Sòlda mawon (“Maroon Soldier”) and the anthology Oeuvres incomplètes (“Incomplete Works”). He was co-editor (with Jack Hirschman) and one of the authors of Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry, Curbstone Press, 2001. With his brother Franck, he recently published the critical memoir, Haiti: entre la lutte et l’espoir (“Haiti: Between Struggle and Hope”), Edition Cidihca, 2004.
Besides his impressive and skillful handling of the French and Creole languages in his poems, we will retain from Paul Laraque an indomitable commitment to social justice and political liberation in ways that transcend specific historical conjunctures. He experienced political heartbreaks, including the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the unraveling of the Haitian popular movement, following the hopeful winds of 1986 and 1991, but he never showed signs of discouragement or despair. Until the very end he remained a champion of Haiti’s independence and the cause of political equality and human liberation in general. Until the very end he believed that Haiti will one day be beautiful and nurturing to its people again, liberated from foreign domination, and its people free from class exploitation. He will be missed.
The trilingual politico-literary journal Tanbou.com is preparing a special issue on Paul Laraque; please send submissions (poems, reviews, studies, photos, personal reflections, etc.) to : firstname.lastname@example.org (www.tanbou.com)