Originally published in April 2012
Ninth Letter is pleased to present the work of Regine Rousseau. A poet born in Chicago who grew up in Haiti, Rousseau was a semi-finalist for the 2011 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic competition, and is the author of the poetry collection Searching for Cloves and Lilies. She gave a reading from her book last summer at the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem, a reading that was reviewed by Ian Frazier in the June 27, 2011 issue of The New Yorker:
“Rousseau grew up in Haiti. After reading several more poems, she said that she wanted to end with one about Haiti called ‘After the Quake.’ She had actually written it before the earthquake of 2010, she said, but later added some lines to refer to that disaster, and also used some lyrics from songs by Boukman Eksperyans, the famous Haitian band. She read the poem in a voice that was both light and mournful, and, when she came to the song lyrics, she sang them. The tune descended to an unexpected combination of notes at the end of each refrain, and the simplicity and strength and heart with which she sang stopped the whole of the Hue-Man Bookstore in its tracks. People elsewhere in the store lifted their heads to listen; applause came from many directions when she was done. She asked her audience for final questions, but nobody said anything. They were still in a trance.”
At the recent AWP conference in Chicago I participated on a panel organized by the writer Andy Johnson, “The Book and the Flame: Expatriate Writers in Africa,” and when fellow panelist Regine Rousseau read and sang her poem “After the Quake,” she put panelists and audience in a trance as well. Regine has graciously made a tape of her poem especially for Ninth Letter, and we hope you enjoy her performance as much as we do.
Though it has been two years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the country still struggles to recover, and cholera epidemics are a continuing danger. For anyone interested, the website Charity Navigator can guide you to the most effective ways to help.