Great Bay/Marigot — The St. Martin poet Lasana M. Sekou on Sunday joined others in signing a change.org Petition against what he calls “the unjust and fundamentally racist law” in the Dominican Republic that strips citizenship and affects over 200,000 people born in the DR to migrant parents, especially from Haiti, from 1929 to the present. And what Sekou stands up for may be exactly why US professors Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman wrote in the new Princeton University Press encyclopedia, about Sekou’s “activities” having “far reaching consequences.”
Literature and socio-political or cultural activism don’t always go hand-in-hand. However, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, edited by Greene, Cushman et al. engages the complex nature of poetry around the world.
John Flood, an English literature teacher at the University of Groningen, calls the book “the most recent edition of the ‘Bible’ of poetry.” The “1,639-page encyclopedia of over a million words” has “over 1,000 entries,” writes Michael O’Sullivan in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.
The Yvy League title departs on “poetry in the Dutch Windward Islands” with Wycliffe Smith’s seminal survey, Windward Islands Verse (1981), then cites that, “Thereafter, the activities of Lasana Sekou, … have had far-reaching consequences.”
The question is raised about whether St. Martin’s “creole English” had “a poetical dialogue with Dutch” and its relationship to publishing and “written literary languages.”
For Nicholas Lezard’s UK Guardian review, if we still need to “realise there is an impulse to poetry in us that is universal, there is really no better book than this.”
Sekou’s work with House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP) is noted for attracting “local talent and … other Caribbean writers to St. Martin.” The island’s additional “concrete point of reference” with Africa through the “widely seen” theater performances and workshops of “the Nigerian critic Fabian Badejo” is also noted.
More than 250 new entries cover recent terms, movements, and related topics in the encyclopedia. Broader international coverage includes articles on the poetries of more than 110 nations, regions, and languages, wrote the book’s editors.
The coverage of the literatures from most of the language zones in the Caribbean by The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, outclasses great English-language anthologies that have committed the sin of omission. “Those that left out the writers and publications of whole parts of the region, focusing only on the larger nations of the English-speaking Caribbean. Sometimes they gave a token mention to the literatures of French- or Spanish-speaking countries and territories but hardly ever to writings in Suriname or the Dutch colonies,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP.
The Princeton University literary encyclopedia is the newest book that’s making a difference with more material about serious Caribbean literatures and literary activities, said Sample.
In fact, it is through the treatment of the whole Caribbean that the discussion emerges in the Princeton tome about the relationships, or lack of, between Dutch, Papiamentu, “English creole,” and Sranan in Suriname and the remaining Netherlands territories. The editors even make a point of difference in the relationship between Dutch and Papiamentu (Curacao) and Papiamento (Aruba).
George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, and Amiri Baraka are the other HNP authors referenced in the authoritative study.
According to David Marx:Book Reviews, “The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics may well evolve into becoming the most important reference book in anyone’s library; serious writers, novelists, short story tellers and those with a penchant for language and poetry in particular.”
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics explores assiduously American, European, African, Arab, Asian and other literatures. With references from the ancient and Aristotelian to modern Zulu poetry, Lezard lets the “succinctness” of the book’s preface speak for the edition: “This is a book of knowledge, of facts, theories, questions, and informed judgment, about poetry. … Poetics, the theoretical and practical study of poetry, is one of the oldest disciplines in the west, one of those founded by Aristotle along with ethics, logic, and political science.”