moi, laminaire… (1982)
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moi, laminaire… poèmes 645 i, laminaria. . . poems The collection i, laminaria. . . resulted from two sets of contingencies: the death of Wifredo Lam, who collaborated with Césaire on the series of engravings entitled Annonciation that Giorgio Upiglio published in Milan in 1982 (CDP); and the intervention of Daniel Maximin, who proposed collecting Césaire’s work of the previous twenty years as a poetic testament. After trying out several versions of the title “Gradient,” Césaire abandoned it in favor of moi, laminaire. . ., which Maximin glossed as “the assimilation of the poet and the man he was to the laminarian alga” (MFV, 150). Several ms. versions of the fifty-three numbered poems point to an organization different from the one finally adopted. (In our notes on the poems, we have included in square brackets after each title the number found on the set of thirteen manuscripts and typescripts in the Kesteloot collection of the Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet.) According to Maximin, on reading the first proofs, Césaire “applied himself to meticulously changing a line or a word here and there. Once all the poems were well arranged by number, he finally decided that it would, however, be preferable to assign a title to each one” (ibid.). Thus, the poems’ titles did not precede, but followed, the organization of the collection. Likewise, the systematic use of lower-case fonts in the titles and the text of most poems was a belated decision, as the earlier versions show.1 Taken together, these choices testify to a scaling back of the poet’s persona as Césaire prepared what he intended in 1982 to be his final poetic statement. With respect to the heroic vision of negritude we find in Solar Throat Slashed, Césaire expressed his disillusionment in “mangrove”: “it is not always a good idea to lose oneself / in gnoseological contemplation / at the most fruitful hollow of genealogical trees.” 1  The presence of some interior punctuation followed by capitalization testifies to the belated­ ness of the decision to use lower case letters more or less systematically. 647 When Miguel Angel Asturias disappeared is both an individual poem and a division of the collection, placed between the fifty-three numbered poems and the Wifredo Lam division. Césaire first memorialized the Guatemalan poet-diplomat (1908–74) in Senghor’s magazine Éthiopiques (January 1976). It is therefore safe to place the date of composition between 1974 and late 1975, although no draft of the poem has been found; it was included in “Noria” in 1976. Wifredo Lam is the last of the three internal divisions of i, laminaria. . . . It draws together works from several sources: the poem “Wifredo Lam” was published in “Noria” in 1976; seven poems written to “illustrate” as many engravings in Lam’s limited-edition portfolio Annonciation (1982); an epigraphic prose that suggests Lam’s godmother initiated him into santería; and a “conversation” that fills in that relationship as Césaire imagined it. 648 moi, laminaire… 649 i, laminaria. . . 650 Le non-temps impose au temps la tyrannie de sa spatialité : dans toute vie il y a un nord et un sud, et l’orient et l’occident. Au plus extrême, ou, pour le moins, au carrefour, c’est au fil des saisons survolées, l’inégale lutte de la vie et de la mort, de la ferveur et de la lucidité, fût-ce celle du désespoir et de la retombée, la force aussi toujours de regarder demain. Ainsi va toute vie. Ainsi va ce livre, entre soleil et ombre, entre montagne et mangrove, entre chien et loup, claudiquant et binaire. Le temps aussi de régler leur compte à quelques fantasmes et à quelques fantômes. 651 Non-time imposes on time the tyranny of its spatiality: in every life there is a north and a south, and the orient and the occident. At the extreme limit or, at the least, at the crossroads, as one’s eyes fly over the seasons, there is the unequal struggle of life and death, of fervor and lucidity, albeit one of despair and collapse, the strength as well to face tomorrow. So goes every life. So goes this book, between sun and shadow, between mountain and mangrove, between dawn and dusk, stumbling and binary. Time also to settle the score with several fantasies and a few phantoms. ...

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