poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Aimé Césaire was born June 26, 1913, in Basse-Pointe, a small town on the northeast coast of Martinique in the French Caribbean. He attended the Lycée Schoelcher in Martinique, and the Parisian schools Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Lycée Louis-le-Grand.

His books of poetry include Lost Body (George Braziller, 1986), with illustrations by Pablo Picasso, Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry (University of California Press, 1983), and Return to My Native Land (Penguin Books, 1969). He is also a playwright, and has written The Tempest (G. Borchardt, 1968), based on Shakespeare’s play, and A Season at Congo (Grove Press, 1966), among others.

About his work, Jean-Paul Sarte wrote: “A Césaire poem explodes and whirls about itself like a rocket, suns burst forth whirling and exloding like new suns—it perpetually surpasses itself.”

He is also the author of Discourse on Colonialism (Monthly Review Press, 1950), a book of essays which has become a classic text of French political literature and helped establish the literary and ideological movement Negritude, a term Césaire defined as “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.”

As a student he and his friend, Léopold Senghor of Sénégal created L’Etudiant noir, a publication that brought together students of Africa and the West Indies. Later, with his wife, Suzanne Roussi, Césaire co-founded Tropiques, a journal dedicated to American black poetry. Both journals were a stronghold for the ideas of Negritude.

Césaire is a recipient of the International Nâzim Hikmet Poetry Award, the second winner in its history. He served as Mayor of Fort-de-France as a member of the Communist Party, and later quit the party to establish his Martinique Independent Revolution Party. He was deeply involved in the struggle for French West Indian rights and served as the deputy to the French National Assembly. He retired from politics in 1993. Césaire died on April 17, 2008 in Martinique.


A Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Lost Body (George Braziller, 1986)
Aime Cesaire, The Collected Poetry (University of California Press, 1983)
Non-Vicious Circle (Stanford University Press, 1984)
Cadastre (Third Press, 1973)
Return to My Native Land (Penguin Books, 1969)
State of the Union (Asphodel Book Shop, 1966)

Prose
Discourse on Colonialism (Monthly Review Press, 1972)

Drama
A Tempest (G. Borchardt, 1985)
The Tragedy of King Christophe (Grove Press, 1969)
A Season in the Congo (Grove Press, 1968)
 


The Woman and the Flame

Aimé Césaire, 1913 - 2008

A bit of light that descends the springhead of a gaze
twin shadow of the eyelash and the rainbow on a face
and round about
who goes there angelically
ambling
Woman the current weather
the current weather matters little to me
my life is always ahead of a hurricane
you are the morning that swoops down on the lamp a night stone 
   between its teeth
you are the passage of seabirds as well
you who are the wind through the salty ipomeas of consciousness
insinuating yourself from another world
Woman
you are a dragon whose lovely color is dispersed and darkens so 
   as to constitute the
inevitable tenor of things
I am used to brush fires
I am used to ashen bush rats and the bronze ibis of the flame
Woman binder of the foresail gorgeous ghost
helmet of algae of eucalyptus
                                 dawn isn't it
                                 and in the abandon of the ribbands
                                 very savory swimmer

From Solar Throat Slashed: The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 2011 by Aimé Césaire. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Solar Throat Slashed: The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 2011 by Aimé Césaire. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Aimé Césaire

Aimé Césaire

Aimé Césaire, a poet and playwright born in 1913 in the French Caribbean, helped establish the literary and ideological movement Negritude. 

by this poet

poem
   At the end of daybreak. . .
   Beat it, I said to him, you cop, you lousy pig, beat it, 
I detest the flunkies of order and the cockchafers of hope. 
Beat it, evil grigri, you bedbug of a petty monk. Then I turned 
toward paradises lost for him and his kin, calmer than the face 
of a woman telling lies, and