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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Love, Lust&Loss: A Collection of Poetry that can only bring awe to your heart

By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine staff writerIn contemporary Haitian literature, there are certain subjects that usually remain taboo; and one of them is Love. Love with all of its sensuality, that is. But Patrick Sylvain (left in the picture), renowned writer and the author of a thrilling collection of poetry titled Love, Lust and Loss, seems to have put a break into that.            The book is a bilingual collection of poetry written in both Creole and English in an attempt, in my view, to impose a uniqueness that we have not often seen from Caribbean writers Creolophone. Added to that is author’s mastery of both languages. This is quite obvious in the descriptive words used to bring the necessary flavor in each poem.            The poem Diamond Creole makes one think of the early 19th century Haitian Literature. Passage like Midnight lover with dark and silky skin, moonlit almond-shaped eyes, wink, make your eyes talk so my body can fill with hope can only make someone remember the Ardouin brothers in La Bergère Somnambule (The sleep-working shepherdess) or La Brise au Tombeau d’Emma (The Breeze Over Emmas’ Grave).            In Saddled By Memories, the poet brings to full display all nightmarish elements of Love, including the melancholy that can burst into active sadness, especially when the memory of the scent, the smile, the touch or “the ways our intertwined bodies nestled in sweat” return with a vengeance to hunt the mind, body and soul.            However, Patrick Sylvain is not only the poet that enshrines love in its pure etymological meaning. He is also the poet of an irreversible Haitian patriotism foregrounded in his acute understanding of the Haitian reality and in his acquaintances with poets of resistance like Paul Laraque with whom he “traversed pain in exile plantations” and also whose “love anchored [him] to poetry and [his] poetry grew lines into Haiti’s complex syllables.” And the poet goes on to say that “in exile, wounded, you praying, me flipping Marx, we awakened with the same dream.”            There is a Creole version for each poem, although I always sense a deeper inspiration in the English version. In poetry, Creole sounds thrilling when it is mixed with a little bit of “folklore.” This may be an overstatement, but this, for some time, remains the subject of heated debates in most literary and academic venues in both the Caribbean as well as North America. It is a very sensitive issue that forces many critiques as well as poets like Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphael Constant and others to reject outright the Creolization formula proposed by Edouard Glissant or the bastard connotation that René Depestre and Aimé Césaire attempted to give to the Caribbean Creole. (See Caribbean Creolophone Dilemma http://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20050620I8 )            That sensitive issue may have been the drive behind Patrick Sylvain’s formal Creole translation. Nonetheless, Patrick Sylvain has demonstrated his total grasp of a passionate subject such as love, especially in his ability to reinvent words and even to create others in order to clarify his true feeling. This is pure, marvelous Haitian realism professed by Jacques Stephen Alexis. Of course, that is what makes a poet what he/she really is: a poet.            Patrick Sylvain, who is a Harvard graduate and who teaches in Massachusetts, is a writer with great credentials. Many in both academia and the literary world, including acclaimed novelist Edwidge Danticat and famous historian Maximilien Laroche, have endorsed his works, especially this new collection of poetry. Patrick is indeed a poet who writes from the heart.

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