restricted access Aime Cesaire and the Syntax of Influence

Much of the criticism on Aimé Césaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal focuses on the poem's linguistic innovation, especially its use of neologism. This paper considers the poem's syntax, its unusual and sometimes disorienting ways of organizing the links between sentence elements and between individual poetic lines. In this regard, the Cahier's recourse to anaphora is one of its features that has had the most influence on the work of other African diasporic writers. Looking in detail at the function of anaphora in the poem, especially in the crucial lines defining the term négritude, I suggest that Césaire's use of formal repetition is related both to his translation of a poem by Sterling Brown, and to his reading of Hegel's concept of "negative determination." I then read the ways a Césairean poetics of anaphora is appropriated, translated, and revised by other New World black writers, including Edward Kamau Brathwaite, C. L. R. James, and Will Alexander.