"Poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge."
Aimé Césaire (b. 1913 in Martinique) is amongst the foremost poets of the Caribbean. He studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he was a progenitor, with Léon Gontran-Damas and Léopold Senghor, of the notion of Négritude. In 1945, running for the French Communist party, Césaire was elected mayor of Fort-de-France, a cantonal conseiller général, and a député to the Première Assemblée Nationale Constituente. He broke officially with the Communist party in 1956, after the Soviet invasion of Hungary. In 1958 he became leader of the socialist Martinican Progressive party.
Césaire was influenced by the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Friedrich Nietzsche (especially Birth of Tragedy), the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius, Marxism, and surrealism. His work encompasses African roots, French poetic and intellectual traditions, and imagery inspired by his native Martinique. Themes of pride, heroism, revolt and transcendence weave through Césaire's poetry, articulating an ideal of unity that rejects homogeneity and assimilation in favor of heterogenous coexistence.
The most comprehensive collection of Césaire's poetry in English is Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry, translated by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith, originally published in 1983 by University of California Press. Other important works include his play A Tempest, a retelling of The Tempest as an allegory of the effects of colonialism, and his essay Discourse on Colonialism (1950), which is considered a key text in the anti-/post-colonial movement.
Read a poem by Aimé Césaire.