Alexandra J. Gold Salute to the French Negro Poet, AimÃ© CÃ©saire I. Introduction In the opening lines of âOde: Salute to the French Negro Poetsâ (1958), midcentury American poet beckons: âFrom near the sea, like Whitman my great predecessor, I call/to the spirits of other lands to make fecund my existenceâ (1â2). OâHaraâs âcallâ at once registers an entreaty and a commandment, foregrounding a poignant contradiction: the harkening âIâ requires external confirmation of its own âexistence.â Likewise, the speakerâs concrete identification with âWhitman,â from whom he derives poetic ancestry and voice, is undercut by the ambiguity of the remote âother landsâ and airy âspiritsâ that must birth him. OâHaraâs lines are rife with tension, collapsing spatial proximity and distance, finitude and uncertainty. They exploit the couplet form in these dualities, precariously straddling location and dislocation, a sense of control and a, quite literal, subjection. Yet, if OâHaraâs lines are fraught with indeterminacy, their attachment to poetry is inviolable, as the lyric call remains addressed âTo the French Negro Poets.â Consequently, any sense of identification at stake here is one between poets: OâHara and Whitman, or OâHara and the one âFrench Negro Poetâ whom he names, AimÃ© CÃ©saire. OâHaraâs
The Comparatist – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Nov 1, 2017
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