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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Post-Mortem Regard on Paul Laraque’s Life

By Hudes Desrameaux

 Special to CSMS MagazinePaul Laraque, 86, unexpectedly died on the morning of March 8, but his departing was somewhat expected. Indeed, sickness and old age had long ago gotten the best of him.Paul Laraque died on the day women all over the world were celebrating their successes and taking stock of their failures to achieve a women-friendly world, or better, full equality with their men counterparts.He may have somewhat willed himself to death in order to join his beloved wife Marcelle, dead about nine years earlier.

Je rencontre enfin ton visage calme


Comme mon arret de mort

 (Paul Laraque, Ce qui demeure, 1973)Paul Laraque was somehow lucky to bid good-bye to life on the day Forbes Magazine published his list of billionaires – all men. Women, it’s, after all, a men’s world.(Conversely, it’s not true that a women-dominated world would produce a better society, as many feminists would have us to believe. Margaret Tatcher has already proven otherwise. The evidence of one, yes, but evidence nevertheless. Capital would find a way to raise its ugly head and create more despair and solitude.)As many of us are remembering the 100th anniversary of Jacques Roumain’s birth, and as someone recently mentioned to me that 2007 is also the 60th anniversary of the death of tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters at the hands of the Dominican army, now we need to find both space and time to carry out an urgent autopsy of Paul Laraque’s body of work.(Let’s not also forget that 2007 is also the 100th anniversary of Francois Duvalier’s birth. Roumain calls on us to fight for a better world, but we need to take a ferocious look at Duvalierism: another obstacle to this peaceful, egalitarian world Roumain, Alexis and Paul Laraque had fought for all their lives.)Unlike most Haitian poets, Paul Laraque poses a different challenge: Do we say that he used the art, or the weapon, of poetry to advance the cause of socialism in Haiti and the world? Alternatively, do we say that socialism, his source of inspiration, routed him to poetry and brought life to his art? A socialist poet or a socialist who used poetry to knock on the doors of capitalism! For those who insist on bleeding our country to death, pick your poison as it’s often said in the world of sports. But for some of us who assess Paul Laraque, it’s a wonderful challenge to sort through. It’s a necessary task as Paul Laraque, himself, may have spent a good deal of his time to ponder the same question: What was I all this time? A socialist elegantly dabbling in poetry or a socialist poet?My answer to this real-life question: Paul Laraque was, fundamentally, a poet. He will have continued to write books of poetry, essentially celebrating his dear wife, long after the advent of socialism in Haiti and the world.

“J’ai des yeux qui n’ont d’yeux que pour toi”

 (Paul Laraque, Ce qui demeure, 1973)Many of us looking at Paul Laraque will unceasingly talk about his unending faith in socialism when it’s clear this ideology is no longer attracting millions of folks throughout the world. Worse, those who believed in socialism continue to jump fences to embrace capitalism. Further, as Haiti was receding in the dark alleys of military dictatorships or occupation in the ‘90s, Paul would always end his articles by proclaiming his faith in a socialist Haiti and world. Fine, but Paul Laraque didn’t bother to clear the ideological fog that was preventing the view of this just and fraternal society. “I am a poet”, he seemed to have been saying; let the political folks attempt to read the hands of current Haitian events.While he was an editorialist for Haiti Progres in the 80’s and may have then been perceived as a PUCH sympathizer, it’s not known that Paul Laraque did ever join the ranks of a political party espousing socialism as its goal.However, we all know that Paul Laraque was one the founders and the first general secretary of the Association of the Haitian Writers in the Diaspora. A writer, a poet at heart!Indeed, saying socialism was our future was nice to some but he could have done more in terms of joining one of the myriad organizations of the Haitian left. In that sense, Paul Laraque was a public intellectual who had freely espoused some socialist ideals: an end to all type of inequalities and a world steeped on brotherhood among men/women and nations.When the master of surrealism Andre Breton arrived in Haiti after the Second World War, Paul Laraque, a military in the Haitian army, was one of those who came to meet Breton. Paul Laraque, Jacques Lenoir at the time, was there as a poet even if surrealism had a way to draw folks to socialism. (Jacques Lenoir was Paul’s pen name in order to protect his identity against brutal dictatorship)The tribe has spoken: Paul may not have been a socialist at the time of Breton’s visit in 1945. Indeed, his book, Oeuvres Incompletes, published in the early 2000’s talked about his Marxist option with the publication of Les armes quotidiennes/Poesie quotidienne, a book that won him in 1979 Cuba’s Casa de las Americas’ first price in the French category.As more than 70 of us were reminiscing about Paul Laraque’s life Sunday night at the behest of Sosyete Koukouy/Miami, there is one thing we all agree on: Paul Laraque was an excellent poet in French but didn’t dazzle us as much when it comes to his poetry production in Haitian Creole.Better: he was always a wonderful patriot and human being. His public devotion to his wife was nothing short of legendary, daring and beautiful.We will dearly miss you, Paul. Haiti has just lost one of its best sons. It’s unfortunate that Ti-Paul died before the birth of this just, democratic and peaceful Haiti –maybe, code words for socialism or a new type of socialism.Onward with the struggle for a better Haiti! It’s the least that could be done for Paul and for those who left this world unchanged but not without trying to radically transform it as best as they could.Plutot la mort que l’exclavageLa mer s’ouvrira en couloir

Pour nous laisser passer

 (Paul Laraque, Soldat Marron, 1987)Also see Unforgettable soirée of remembrance in memory of Paul Laraque

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