By Danielle Legros Georges | Special Contribution
Let us praise mothers and other-mothers, those women who care for offspring not their own. Let us celebrate the sweet words of mothering and the sharp words too. Let us uplift the mothers of the mind: our mentors, teachers, peers, professors, women who birth consciousness and culture, writers of the poetry of possibility.
Because poetry (and flowers) usually accompany the day, I want to praise Haitian women poets especially this Mother’s Day.
Here are a few of these writers whose books and chapbooks you might want to look up. While I list writers with English-language texts here, there are many wonderful contemporary Haitian women poets writing in French, Creole, and other languages.
Enjoy, and bonn fèt dè mè.
Gabrielle Civil, Tourist Art (2014)
Civil offers us a poetic and clear-eyed rumination on the politics of mass-produced Haitian paintings (with illustrations by Vladimir Cybil Charlier). “Tourist art,” she notes incisively, “is always selling timelessness. / the story the tourist wants to tell of the travel / not the stinging cloudburst but the cobalt sea.”
Valérie Déus, Skull-Filled Sun (2018)
An electricity courses through Déus’ poems, one that seems to want to light the world or torch it down. Using unusual syntax, she weaves disparate worlds together, making what seems foreign downright innate, and newly bright.
Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, Lost and Found (2009)
Pleasure and pain thread their way through this book, the stuff of living fully, of living unapologetically. The poem “Let Me Be,” opens “let me be / i want to live truly / the truth of my loving / with a silk rose at my throat,” and burns beautifully red until its end.
Lenelle Moïse, Haiti Glass (2014)
Moïse speaks jazz and sings verse open, all the while bearing witness, and rendering the personal and political inextricable. She writes “jazz is underwater / vodou atlantis mute / aborted ultrasound / fetal fish in flood / haiti’s first cousin / forcibly kissed / by a hurricane called / katrina. . .”
Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell, Crossroads and Unholy Water (2000)
As painterly as they are graceful, the poems of this book offer up scenes of a Caribbean girlhood and womanhood, full of the wondrous—along with a useful lesson or two. Phipps-Kettlewell writes, “Aunt Frances taught me how to rescue / drowning men. . . “Sometimes drowning men will fight, / and you have to knock them out! she said.”
Nadine Pinede, An Invisible Geography (2012)
The poems of a global citizen appear here, one who envisions the moment her parents meet on a Paris sidewalk, one who stands silently beneath a night sky in Mali, one beset in Poland by women in headscarves “pressing photos of their sons into my hands.”
Danielle Legros Georges’ most recent book is Island Heart (2021), translations of the poems of Haitian writer Ida Faubert. Georges is a Professor of Creative Writing at Lesley University and the Translation Editor of Consequenceforum.org. Appointed the second Poet Laureate of the city of Boston, she served in the role from 2015 to 2019. For more about her work, visit daniellelegrosgeorges.com.