Laraque, Paul and Jack Hirschman. (Eds.): Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry

Article excerpt

Laraque, Paul and Jack Hirschman. (eds.) Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 2001.

Kreyol, often referred to as "Creole" in English, is the most widely spoken language in Haiti and represents one of the most important elements of Haitian culture. It is the only language of over 90 percent of Haiti's people. Throughout history, most of Haiti's French-speaking elites have considered Kreyol an inferior language or a bastardized version of French. In 1987, however, one year after the overthrow of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, the new Haitian Constitution made Kreyol one of Haiti's two official languages. Proclaiming Kreyol an official language was the culmination of a dream first envisioned in the 1950s by Haitian writer Felix Morisseau-Leroy (1922-1998). During the 1960s, a group of Haitian writers, including Paul Laraque (19202007), emulated Morisseau-Leroy and began writing poetry in Kreyol. Laraque believed that writing in Kreyol could bridge the gap between Haiti's masses and progressive intellectuals. Since Kreyol is rarely spoken as a second language by non-Haitians, most readers in the English-speaking world were unable to appreciate Haitian Kreyol poetry.

When it was first published in 2001, Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry was the first bilingual anthology of Haitian Krey61 poetry translated into English. Laraque, who spent most of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s living in exile in New York City, began developing the project with American poet and social activist Jack Hirschman (1933-) in 1993. Both poets were assisted in translation efforts by Haitian-born writers Boadiba and Max Manigat. Laraque, who emphasized the power of language, states that Kreyol is "a beautiful language with the rhythm of the drum and the images of a dream, especially in its poetry, and a powerful weapon in the struggle of our people for national and social liberation" (p. …

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