“Saving Face: In Search of the Masculine Subject
in George Castera’s Le Retour à l’arbre

Author: Dr Ara Chi Jung, (PhD, Northwestern University, Illinois, USA),
Independent Scholar, Florence, Italy

Abstract

George Castera’s poem, Le Retour à l’arbre (1974), takes the reader on an odyssey through the violent lands that lead to masculine subjectivity. Despite his relative obscurity on the international academic and poetic scene, Castera has made significant contributions to the poetic and literary landscape of Haiti. Indeed, Le Retour à l’arbre, which I maintain is a visual poem in conversation with the international avant-garde movements, engages a truly visual experience and expression of Haitian poetry. Created in collaboration with illustrator Bernard Wah, this graphic poem takes the reader on a surreal adventure through language and visuality into masculine poetic subjectivity. Le Retour à l’arbre experiments with poetic and visual forms endeavoring to create a unique journey through the chaotic violence of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986). Castera seamlessly weaves his poetry to the haunting images drawn by Wah, which, ultimately, articulate the artists’ experiences of violent totalitarian dictatorship and its impact on their creative expression. Privileging subjective experience and poetic violence, Castera explores the unconscious terrain of masculinity in contemplation of a poetic masculine identity and voice. This paper follows the poetic odyssey in its quest to recover the masculine subject position, notably the poetic “je,” and outline its reconstitution through the textual-visual vocabulary of the avant-garde. Indeed, Castera’s poetics deconstruct and critique the virulent masculinity of the dictatorship through the male body.

Discussion

This paper will be presented at CARISCC’s 4th Postgraduate Research Conference on Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity, University of Amsterdam, Roeterseiland Campus, The Netherlands, Wednesday 13 June 2018. Please feel free to participate in CARISCC’s online conference discussions by using the “Leave a Reply” space, shown below, to submit any questions, comments and feedback.