The incandescence of Aimé Césaire

32649Aimé Césaire has written a most powerful thing, a most beautiful thing, my words can’t do it justice — they bow before the beauty of his words. Especially as it is not for me. It is a poem of struggle still not done, a battle against all that years of slavery, colonialism, exploitation and racism have piled on to the souls of all those who wear dark skin in ways that I can’t fully know. This is the celebration of negritude, and it is wondrous that it is shared with all.

It speaks to shared humanity, shared struggle to overcome fears and insecurities and all of those things thrust on us by the world because of who we are. It speaks to my own class anxieties, a love of where I am from coexisting often with the panic response of being dragged back there. A fear of poverty, a life narrowing in on itself, everyday violence.  But holding to the good of them all the same.

Then I turned toward paradises lost for him and his kin, calmer than the face of a woman telling lies, and there, rocked by the flux of a never exhausted thought I nourished the wind, I unlaced the monsters and heard rise, from the other side of disaster, a river of turtledoves and savanna clover which I carry forever in my depths height-deep as the twentieth floor of the most arrogant houses and as a guard against the putrefying force of crepuscular surroundings, surveyed night and day by a cursed venereal sun. (1)

But still I have benefited from this world in many ways:

Hear the white world
horribly weary from its immense efforts
its stiff joints crack under the hard stars
its blue steel rigidities pierce the mystic flesh
hear its deceptive victories tout its defeats
hear the grandiose alibis of its pitiful stumbling (36)

Surely we must look outside of a rapacious white civilisation guilty of so many crimes and steadily destroying the natural world and calling our survival into question when thinking how to rebuild a new and better world?

Eia for the royal Cailcedra!
Eia for those who never invented anything
for those who never explored anything
for those who never conquered anything
but yield, captivated, to the essence of things
ignorant of surfaces by captivated by the motion of all things
indifferent to conquering, but playing the game of the world (35)

A final note — I cannot resist the botanical language, his love of the plants and geology of Martinique and their weaving into his poetry. Nor this reference to my profession, this understanding that our geography — our trajectory across the world, sense of place, comfort in those places — is something lived, suffered, not simply theorised and drawn.

And my special geography too; the world map made for my own use, not tinted with the arbitrary colours of scholars, but with the geometry of my spilled blood, I accept. (43)

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