Frankétienne : A Voice of Reason and Redemption: A Brief Analysis of “Ville Schizophonique”

Frankétienne : A Voice of Reason and Redemption: A Brief Analysis of “Ville Schizophonique”.

Frankétienne : A Voice of Reason and Redemption: A Brief Analysis of “Ville Schizophonique”

Ville Schizophonique by Frankétienne

Music by Mark Mulholland

In his poem, “Ville Schizophonique,” the Haitian poet and novelist Frankétienne sings a tribute to the city of Port-au-Prince, as Cesaire had done for Martinique in Retours au pays natal. The brief analysis below proposes to view or understand the poet as a voice of reason and a voice of redemption.

“Ville Schizophonique” by Frankétienne

“… Amour et désamour…
Je m’en vestige à contempler ma ville debout
Ma ville à genous
Ma ville en grand prodigne
Ma ville couché en grand prodigne
Ma ville hors de vestige de l’ombre…
et toute la planète
entre pierre et p poussière de décombre
entre l’or invisible et la pire des ténèbres
entre les ordures et la lumière

Je nage inépuisable
Je nage intarissable
Je nage infatiguable
Je suis de Port-au-Prince… à corps de sphinx
Ma ville enfouraillé
Ma ville schizophonique
Ma ville chaotique
Ma ville bavarde
Ma ville infatiguable
Ma ville perdue
à la navigation des eaux
qui passent
qui trainent
qui portent
les eaux d’apocalypse
mon fleuve d’apocalypse …

Je coït
Je coït avec ma voie.
Je coït avec mon ombre.
Je coït avec moi-même
Je coït avec le monde.
Je coït avec tout le monde.
Je coït avec la foi.
Cogito ergo sum.
Je pense.
Je dépense.
Et je n’existe pas.
Alors je crie.
Je crie.
Je crie pour exister.
Je crie pour affirmer.
entre les ombres et les décombres…
Je danse
donc j’existe. ..
alors je coït
donc j’existe
et le coït accélère sa vitesse
Je crète
Je m’en crète
Je decrète
Je langèt
Je te langèt
C’est moi
le roi de Port-au-Prince
l’ empéreur de Port-au-Prince
Le prince
des dictateurs indechoukables.”

Brief commentary

In “Ville Schizophonique,” Franketienne has proven himself to be the most creative Haitian writer-poet in contemporary Haitian literature. He is a voice of reason who sings but also mourns the decay of Haiti’s capital city. It is a sorrow song, a song of despair, a song of alienation, and a song of desolation. The reader is led to see him not just as a poet but also as a public intellectual and social critic who denounces the social ills of the country and the heinous crimes of its leaders (Je te langèt/le roi de Port-au-Prince/l’ empéreur de Port-au-Prince/Le prince des dictateurs inedechoukables..)

The poet speaks as an eyewitness of the events he has lived and continues to live, and not just a narrator who chronicles the Haitian condition and experience, with an emphasis on the meaning of existence and life in Port-au-Prince. He has witnessed the city’s plight and understands the people’s longing for shalom and restoration. He possesses great wisdom of the people’s journeys, and cultural insights about la ville d’apartenance; in fact, he reveals le sentiment d’apartenance that he shares with the city and its dwellers. Those who will hear his voice are invited to reflect critically upon the post-earthquake life-worlds and life-experiences of the Haitian people.

He moves by sorrow, suffering, and intense grief. Franketiene depicts the city of Port-au-Prince in devastating ruin, the country in progressive and catastrophic decline, and the Haitian society almost without hope or redemption. He also projects himself as a profoundly meditating voice of/for justice and cultural renewal, and the poet-participant who sings and longs for the redemption of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and ultimately his native land, Haiti. For Franketienne, Port-au-Prince is not an end of itself, and will not die. It will be saved, as the poet himself revolts and calls upon others to do likewise, that is to contribute to the city’s redemption. Port-au-Prince is like a sphinx of old that stands erect in the midst of flood, earthquake, and national disasters:Je suis de Port-au-Prince… à corps de sphinx.

The use of the subject pronoun “je” repetitively bears a collective meaning, a sort of interdependence and inter-subjectivity, and reciprocal mutuality. It The Haitian people also “swim indefatigably and tirelessly” (Je nage infatiguable/Je nage inépuisable); they also fight for their own existence and strive to affirm their humanity in the post-earthquake tragic life and existential desolation (Je crie pour exister. /Je crie pour affirmer entre les ombres et les décombres…). In other words, the post-earthquake landscape embodies their own existential desolation and alienation–both individually and collectively. Those with the stronger bone, the survivors, must dance (Je dance), relate reciprocally (Je coït), and exist, as they anticipate a new beginning (donc j’existe…), just like the character Annaise–after the termination of a life, the death of his fiancee, Manuel, the protagonist of the story–at the end of the novel, Jacques Roumain’s Masters of the Dew, “smiled through her tears…[because] the new life was stirring ” in her belly.   The Poet is calling all to dance through their tears; for redemption is very near. 

In the same vein, “ma ville” is the collective city, which belongs to all Haitians. Nonetheless, the poet attempts to transcend regional  and national boundaries by portraying himself  in an intimate way,  as a citizen of the world, and the voice of a cosmopolitan humanist:  Je coït avec le monde./Je coït avec tout le monde. This poetic hope is rooted in the fellowship with other people and in the ethics of mutual trust.

Franketienne uses the French noun  coït as a veb, figuratively in the poem. Coït generally means coitus or any sexual rapport or intercourse, or as it is defined in the dictionary, it is “physical union of male and female genitalia accompanied by rhythmic movements.” Here, the poet employs the term to bear the idea of the act of moving in unison, the sense of “bringing elements together in harmony.” In the same manner, he uses the Creole noun “langète,” as a verb, as a form of resistance to Haitian totalitarianism, but also to denounce the country’s political charlatans and predators, as well as to rebuke its unending cycle of violence. In the poem, the poet-participant blends the Creole and the French harmoniously to convey a sense of closeness that he shares with the capital city and the simple fact that he belongs to Port-au-Prince.

Finally, I bring your attention to the poetic tone and the intertextual resonance between Cesaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal and Franketienne’s “Ville Schizophonique.”

“At the end of daybreak burgeoning with frail coves, the hungry Antilles, the Antilles pitted with smallpox, the Antilles dynamited by alcohol, stranded in the mud of this bay, in the dust of this town sinisterly stranded.
At the end of the daybreak, the extreme, deceptive desolate eschar on the wound of the waters; the martyrs who do not bear witness; the flowers of blood that fade and scatter in the empty wind like the screeches of babbling parrots; an aged life mendaciously smiling, its lips opened by vacated agonies; an aged poverty rotting under the sun, silently; an aged silence bursting with tepid pustules,
the awful futility of our raison d’etre.

The “Ville Schizophonique” by Franketienne is nothing less than a tour-de-force of a poetic imagination and creative rhetoric, correspondingly, a poetic of revolt and resistance, and an ardent quest for collective hope and redemption… for his native land. The reader can anticipate the poet-participant will contribute to the reconstruction of the capital city, which is a metaphorical symbol for the poet’s native land.

*(*I typed the words of the poem above as I listened to Franketienne’s performance of the Spoken Word. Hence, it is indeed an excerpt.)

“Dialect of Hurricanes” by Franketienne

"Dialect of Hurricanes" by Franketienne.

“Dialect of Hurricanes”/”Dialecte des cyclones” by Franketienne

Dialect of Hurricanes by Franketienne

          Every day I use the dialect of lunatic hurricanes.
I speak the madness of clashing winds.
Every evening I use the patois of furious rains.
I speak the fury of waters in flood.
Every night I talk to the Caribbean islands in the tongue of hysterical storms. I speak the hysteria of the rutting sea.
Dialect of hurricanes. Patois of rains. Language of tempests. Unravelling of the spiralling life.
Fundamentally, life is tension. Towards something. Towards someone. Towards oneself. Towards the point of maturity where the old and the new, death and birth untangle. And every being is realised in part in the search for its double, a search which may, in a sense, merge with the intensity of a need, a desire, and an infinite quest.
Dogs pass by – I’ve always been obsessed with strays – they yap at the shadow of the woman I’m pursuing. At the image of the man I’m looking for. At my double. At the hubbub of fleeing voices. For so many years. Feels like thirty centuries.
The woman’s gone, without a fanfare. Along with my discordant heart. The man never even offered me his hand. My double is always at my heels. And the unhinged throats of night dogs howl with the cacophony of a busted accordion.
It’s then I become a storm of words bursting the hypocricy of clouds and the falseness of silence. Rivers. Storms. Lightning. Mountains. Trees. Lights. Rains. Savage oceans. Take me to the frenzied core of your articulation. Take me! Just a hint of clarity would give me a living chance. Would let me accept life. Tension. The inexorable law of growth. Osmosis and symbiosis. Take me! The sound of a step, a glance, a touching voice would be enough for me to live happy in the hope that awakening is still possible among humans. Take me! It wouldn’t take much for me to speak the sap that flows through the core of the cosmos in motion.
Dialect of hurricanes. Patois of rains. Languages of storms. I speak the unravelling of the spiralling life.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Andre Naffis-Sahely

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

The  French original

Dialecte des cyclones by Franketienne

          Chaque jour, j’emploie le dialecte des cyclones fous.
Je dis la folie des vents contraires.
Chaque soir, j’utilise le patois des pluies furieuses.
Je dis la furie des eaux en débordement.
Chaque nuit, je parle aux îles Caraïbes le langage des tempêtes hystériques. Je dis l’hystérie de la mer en rut.
Dialecte des cyclones. Patois des pluies. Langage des tempêtes. Déroulement de la vie en spirale.
Fondamentalement la vie est tension. Vers quelque chose. Vers quelqu’un. Vers soi-même. Vers le point de maturité où se dénouent l’ancien et le nouveau, la mort et la naissance. Et tout être se réalise en partie dans la recherche de son double, recherche qui se confond à la limite avec l’intensité d’un besoin, d’un désir et d’une quête infinie.
Des chiens passent – j’ai toujours eu l’obsession des chiens errants – ils jappent après la silhouette de la femme que je poursuis. Après l’image de l’homme que je cherche. Après mon double. Après la rumeur des voix en fuite. Depuis tant d’années. On dirait trente siècles.
La femme est partie, sans tambour ni trompette. Avec mon coeur désaccordé. L’homme ne m’a point tendu la main. Mon double est toujours en avance sur moi. Et les gorges déboulonnées des chiens nocturnes hurlent effroyablement avec un bruit d’accordéon brisé.
C’est alors que je deviens orage de mots crevant l’hypocrisie des nuages et la fausseté du silence. Fleuves. Tempêtes. Éclairs. Montagnes. Arbres. Lumières. Pluies. Océans sauvages. Emportez-moi dans la moelle frénétique de vos articulations. Emportez-moi ! Il suffit d’un soupçon de clarté pour que je naisse viable. Pour que j’accepte la vie. La tension. L’inexorable loi de la maturation. L’osmose et la symbiose. Emportez-moi ! Il suffit d’un bruit de pas, d’un regard, d’une voix émue, pour que je vive heureux de l’espoir que le réveil est possible parmi les hommes. Emportez-moi ! Car il suffit d’un rien, pour que je dise la sève qui circule dans la moelle des articulations cosmiques.
Dialecte des cyclones. Patois des pluies. Langages des tempêtes. Je dis le déroulement de la vie en spirale.

Frankétienne, 5 Questions pour Île en île

“We need to use the language of the people to help uplift the people:” An Interview with Wynnie Lamour (Part II)

Here’s the second part of the interview:

“We need to use the language of the people to help uplift the people:” An Interview with Wynnie Lamour  (Part II)

The language of the Haitian people is Haitian Creole: An Interview with Wynnie Lamour (Part I)

I recently interviewed Haitian American educator Wynnie Lamour on  “Haiti: Then and Now.” Check it out:

The language of the Haitian people is Haitian Creole: An Interview with Wynnie Lamour   (Part I)

Wynnie Lamour wrote:

“The language of the Haitian people is Haitian Creole. That can never be contested. We live our lives fully and richly every day with Haitian Creole.
One of our main goals at HCLI is to battle the negative imagery that’s often associated with speaking Haitian Creole.
Still others criticize the language because the majority of the people who speak it are a dark, brown people.
In creating a space where one can learn Haitian Creole formally, I’m reminding the world that our language is as relevant as any other language.
It is as structured, as rich in variety, as useful and as important to its people as any other language.
In allowing people the room to learn the language formally, I’m helping to create the scaffolding that will help carry on the language to the next generation, especially among the Dyaspora.”

Erasing Memory: The Miseducation of a Cardinal


Saving Vodou from Cardinal Langlois and Internalized Afrophobia

By Manbo Asogwe Dòwòti Désir

Originally posted on DDPA Watch Group:

Saving Vodou from Cardinal Langlois and Internalized Afrophobia

By Manbo Asogwe Dòwòti Désir

The drums of Vodou are used to call down the spirits, connecting congregants with the sacred vibrational energies of the universe. Photo: D. Désir

Roshmee Roshan Lall’s recent article in the Guardian, Voodoo Won’t Save Haiti, Says Cardinal, is so problematic on so many levels the temptation to ignore it is only outweighed by the number of people who have called it to my attention. They expect me to respond and so I shall. Lall’s expertise in international affairs is in business and economics so why the journalist is writing about religion even from a development perspective is my first question? Before I continue, it is imperative that one glaring observation be made: She misspells Vodou or has not made it clear to the Guardian’s editors that the orthographically correct spelling of the religion and discipline is…

View original 3,310 more words


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 812 other followers