Four “Overdue Poems About the Caribbean Sea” by René Depestre

Anthologie Personelle

Anthologie personelle
BY René Depestre
(Actes Sud, 1993)

Hadriana dans tous mes rêves
BY René Depestre
(Gallimard, 1988)

The writing of his later life resurrects the Haiti he knew as a child — a dreamy Haiti, where there was beauty in every thing, place, and person. A place where Vaudou and Christianity cohabited harmoniously, suggesting that perhaps, had certain people and events not intervened, even Haiti’s poorest could have eventually prospered. It’s an early 20th century Haiti, to be exact, but a Haiti that we should get to know, in order to better understand the country today. His sensual, delicious novel, Hadriana dans tous mes rêves, is the epitome of this period in his writing, presenting us the sights, sounds, scents and tastes that made up Haiti from the thirties. The novel garnered several awards, reawakening a worldwide interest in his work, as well as inspiring deeper study of the diaspora of African and European rituals, religion and culture that found their way to the island.

The writing of his later life resurrects the Haiti he knew as a child — a dreamy Haiti, where there was beauty in every thing, place, and person.

René Depestre is considered as one of Haiti’s most important writers to date. Widely read and translated into several languages, he has been awarded several literary awards. And yet, we English-language readers have completely missed out. Very little of his work has been translated into English, and those texts quietly came and went. Perhaps it has to do with his Communist past, or perhaps because of his disavowal of the Negritude movement…

The poems featured here were especially selected by Depestre, as part of his personal anthology, literally named, Anthologie personelle. They appear in the first part of the book, which he alludes to as “Overdue Poems About the Caribbean Sea.”

Now eighty-two, Depestre has lived his later years in the south of France in relative peace. He continues to write, and most recently was featured in a successful and much-lauded biographic documentary, “Haiti in All My Dreams,” directed by Jean-Daniel Lafond.

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