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Left of PoetryDepression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics$
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Sarah Ehlers

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469651286

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469651286.001.0001

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Lyric Internationalism

Lyric Internationalism

Jacques Roumain and His Committee

(p.143) Chapter Four Lyric Internationalism
Left of Poetry

Sarah Ehlers

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter considers Haitian communist poet Jacques Roumain and his reception in the United States. Analyzing the production, circulation, and reception of Roumain’s writings and his authorial persona, the chapter explores several connected variants of a communist internationalism that is imagined through the idea of “lyric,” or “lyricism,” and it demonstrates how such international imaginaries are tied to different conceptions of history. The chapter begins by sketching the import of Roumain as a figure for U.S. radicals. It then turns to Roumain’s friendship with Langston Hughes, showing how the exchange of poems between the two allows critics to move beyond straightforward historical accounts that show how radical African American artists and intellectuals referred to Haiti’s revolutionary past in their protests against Jim Crow policies, colonial occupations, and the rise of fascism in Europe. I argue that Roumain and Hughes harness and experiment with the unique temporality of the poetic lyric in order to present black radicalism as a formation unbounded by spatial and temporal borders. The final sections turn to the prose and poetry Roumain composed during his exile in the United States, using it to rearticulate ideas about the relationship of the poetic lyric to historical praxis.

Keywords:   lyric poetry, internationalism, translation, Jacques Roumain, Langston Hughes, Haiti

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