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28600: Sylvain (Book Review) CSMS Magazine (fwd)

From: patrick sylvain <sylvaipa@hotmail.com>

Love, Lust & Loss: A Collection of Poetry that can only bring awe to your
Tuesday July 11

By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine staff writer

In 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

            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
http://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20050620I8 )<?xml:namespace
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            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.

Copyright © 2005