Jocelyn Valverde

Jocelyn Valverde, French Caribbean Poet: This young, self-taught and Parisian-born poet, whose parents are from Guadeloupe, gave this interview in 1990, in Boulder, Colorado. Valverde, who claims his roots as a man living in exile in France, focuses on the history of slavery in the French colonies, cultural alienation, Caribbean legacies, poetic sensitivity, the creative process, the power of nature and the value of spirituality. The documentary includes a brief history of the French Caribbean, many historical photographs, illustrations of Valverde’s poetry by the French painter, Françoise Laloum, and examples of Caribbean folk art. Four of Valverde’s poems appear in the documentary, two of them read aloud with great clarity and intensity by the poet. (See an excerpt from the DVD below.)

DVD: Jocelyn Valverde, French Caribbean Poet
Details: English voiceover only; teacher’s guide; 24 minutes

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Excerpt: I believe that a connection unifies the different black peoples of the world–Africans, African-Americans, black Caribbeans, blacks in Latin America. The challenge for all of us at the beginning of the twenty-first century is to find our central unity so we can discover a living synthesis beyond the shock of history. We have to re-build our personality, re-find our identity, and this battle engages all of our intellectuals and artists today. Sometimes when we go back to Guadeloupe or Martinique, we are not accepted. Often we have difficulty in speaking Créole. In addition, there is an intense problem of alienation. In a cruel play on words, we are called “les métros,” “the metropolitans.” People tell us we cannot presume to teach them something just because we have studied in France. This problem of superiority appears in many other parts of the Third World as well, for example in all of the formerly colonized countries such as Algeria. In my poem, “Starblood,” I tried to describe the anguish of cultural isolation and loss:

death is dead finally I am free
alone in the fire of the void
my crust black
burned away by the pain
of my skin that crumbles
in a transparent cry

Endorsements: “This video offers an excellent introduction for students to the trans-racial, cross-cultural themes of today’s French Caribbean writers. What is the Caribbean writer’s relationship to Europe? to Africa? to the Americas? The video invites us to explore these topics through an intimate portrait of French-Guadeloupean poet, Jocelyn Valverde. Though not well-known, Valverde’s poetry is compellingly direct, passionate, and spiritual. Enriched with illustrations from historical documents, photographs, and–most delightfully–by colorful paintings by contemporary artists, the video gives immediate access to the fascinating challenges of Afro-Caribbean identity in the world today.”
Janice Morgan, Professor of French, Murray State University

“I watched your interviews from Ethnic Expressions from the Mosaic of the Americas. They were wonderful and very inspiring. I felt like an active participant in the interviews I watched. These cassettes will be useful in Cameroon at the university level. Accept my special congratulations for a job well done.”
Dorothy Enanga Mokenge Matute, Principal, Government Secondary School, Limbe, Fako Division, Cameroon

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