For Monchoachi—a prolific writer in both French and Martinican Creole—language is a site of both play and resistance, a rhizomatic system of becomings, origins, and renewals. As fellow writer Patrick Chamoiseau describes, “[Monchoachi] has completely renewed our vision of the Creole language– the way we read it, practice it, defend it. He has reshaped the relationship of this language to French, and has explored the blossoming of an unheard speech, its explosion into life, which we become witness to in Lémistè.” My translation strives to reflect/refract this performative [re-]visioning which Monchoachi so adeptly applies to his seemingly meandering (but always intentional, and oftentimes instructive) narrative. By extension, these poems also strive to oscillate on the tips of the readers’ [multiple] tongues, to disorient and subvert the limitations of language in order to open and influence it with magic, the mysterious [Lémistè]. The power of these poems are found in their physical and spatial integrality; they reside in the body, in the land and water. As a result, though the reader is carried through the intangible, into the cantatory, we remain grounded, with a taste of the air in our mouths.
This translation collection of about 80 poems, divided into 8 sections, has been completed in close collaboration with the author.