Synopses & Reviews
In his ABC of Reading
, Ezra Pound begins his short list of nineteenth-century French poets to be studied with Théophile Gautier. Widely esteemed by figures as diverse as Charles Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Gustave Flaubert, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and T. S. Eliot, Gautier was one of the nineteenth centurys most prominent French writers, famous for his virtuosity, his inventive textures, and his motto “Art for arts sake.” His work is often considered a crucial hinge between High Romanticism—idealistic, sentimental, grandiloquent—and the beginnings of “Parnasse,” with its emotional detachment, plasticity, and irresistible surfaces.
His large body of verse, however, is little known outside France. This generous sampling, anchored by the complete Émaux et Camées, perhaps Gautiers supreme poetic achievement, and including poems from the vigorously exotic España and several early collections, not only succeeds in bringing these poems into English but also rediscovers them, renewing them in the process of translation. Norman Shapiros translations have been widely praised for their formal integrity, sonic acuity, tonal sensitivities, and overall poetic qualities, and he employs all these gifts in this collection. Mining one of the crucial treasures of the French tradition, Shapiro makes a major contribution to world letters.
“Following Gautiers instructions in his famous poem, ‘Art, Norman Shapiro has sculpted, chiseled, and filed these ingenious translations in the resistant stone of the English language. One of the key poets of the French nineteenth century, revered by Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot, Gautier can now initiate a new generation of readers in English into the mysteries of the poetic art.”—Rosanna Warren, Boston University
“Gautiers distinctively graceful and elegant poetry is overdue for discovery by English-speaking readers. This virtuosic collection does both justice to his verse and a great service to those unable to appreciate it fully in the original French.”—Alain Toumayan, University of Notre Dame
"A key work in the French lyric canon. . . . We are indebted to Norman Shapiro, who is nothing less than the dean of contemporary American translators engaged with French poetry. . . . [His] scholarship is impeccable, his mastery of all facets of the original text is complete, accurate, and precise, and his application of English poetics is not only exemplary in every respect, but above all, vital and vivifying.”—David Lee Rubin, University of Virginia
“Doris Kadish is already known for her valuable and subtle contributions to the study of women and slavery. Together with Deborah Jenson's talent and Norman Shapiro's elegant translations, we are treated to a polyphonic book which revives the lost voices of long forgotten poets. The importance and complexity of the Haitian revolution comes to life in page after page.”—Maryse Condé, author of I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
“Poetry of Haitian Independence is a magnificent accomplishment, overcoming the stigma of ‘collective bovarism’ with erudition and grace to bring readers a wealth of largely unknown, often stirring poetry that sheds light on the cultural, historical, and political development of Haiti following its 1804 independence.”—Nick Nesbitt, Princeton University
“This groundbreaking collection shines a much-needed light on the diverse styles, themes, and politics of post-Revolutionary Haitian poetry, as well as on the importance of such verse in public life. It will be enormously valuable for scholars and students of Haitian literature and history, as well as for anyone interested in nineteenth-century transatlantic literary cultures.”—Kate Ramsey, author of The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti
“This collection presents for the first time an alternative history of Haiti right after the only successful revolution of slaves in the New World. There is simply nothing like it.”—Colin Dayan, author of Haiti, History, and the Gods
“The translation is a tour de force. This is an essential missing link to work on the African diaspora, on Haiti, and most importantly not only on comparative slaveries, but on comparative revolutions.”—Alessandra Benedicty, City College of New York
This collection of deeply felt and powerfully moving Haitian poetry dating back to the first decades of the Caribbean island’s independence from French colonial rule sheds a much needed light on an important and often neglected period in Haiti’s literary history. Editors Kadish and Jenson have made a significant corpus of largely unknown poetry accessible to a wide audience for the first time with this essential bilingual volume of early-nineteenth-century verse that celebrates the authors’ African origins, freedom from oppression, equality for all, and the legitimacy of the only modern country born from a slave revolt.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Haiti became the first and only modern country born from a slave revolt. During the first decades of Haitian independence, a wealth of original poetry was created by the inhabitants of the former French Caribbean island colony and published in Haitian newspapers. These deeply felt poems celebrated the legitimacy of the new nation and the value of the authors’ African origins while revealing a common mission shared by all Haitians in the young republic: freedom from oppressors and equality for all.
This powerfully moving collection of Haitian verse written between 1804 and the late 1840s sheds a much-needed light on an important and often neglected period in Haiti’s literary history. Editors Doris Kadish and Deborah Jenson have gathered together poetry that has remained largely unknown and difficult to access since its original publication two centuries ago. Featuring superb translations from the original French by Norman Shapiro and a foreword by the Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat, this essential volume stands as a monument to a turning point in Haitian and world history and makes a significant corpus of poetry accessible to a wide audience for the first time.
About the Author
Théophile Gautier  was a prominent French poet, novelist, critic, and journalist. Norman R. Shapiro is professor of Romance languages and literatures at Wesleyan University. His many translations include the award-winning volumes The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine and French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen. He divides his time between Middletown, Connecticut, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.