Joël Des Rosiers is an acclaimed Haitian-born francophone writer whose work has been nominated for the Governor General's Award and whose life reads like a novel — he is a psychiatrist, an award-winning poet and a political activist on the international stage. His poetry collection Vetiver, which won the 1999 Grand Prix du livre de Montréal and the 2000 Grand Prix du Festival international de la poésie de Trois Rivières, is now published for the first time in English.
Vetiver, a grass also known as cuscus, was brought from the Indies to Haiti. There it has taken root and flourished, becoming all-pervasive. The heavy aroma of the grass permeates everything. In Vetiver, the grass is a powerful, mythical symbol for Joël Des Rosiers, representing the root of lyrical possibility. An homage to his native land, Des Rosiers' narrative poem evokes all of the wild opulence of the Caribbean world and plumbs the depths of memory in language that is rich and multihued, full of tangible flavours. It is a hymn to the power of the word, the book and the voice, guided by the heritage of ancestors and the sensual proximity of people and things.
Des Rosiers revisits themes from his three previous collections here: nostalgia, the search for roots and identity, the pain of memory, and the exploration of real and imagined spaces. Rooted in mystery and sacrifice, these narrative poems are shaped by extreme tensions that blend, in a strange way, with a seemingly clinical erudition where the melancholy of the flesh offers itself up as a substitution for mourning, religious ceremony and sensuality.
Joël Des Rosiers, a direct descendent of Nicolas Malet, the revolutionary colonist and signatory of the Act of Independance, was born in Cayes, Haiti in 1951, He moved to Canada during his adolesence when his family was granted exile. Des Rosiers later moved to Strasburg for his studies and joined the situationist movement in the early 1970s. Throughout these years, he provided clandestine accommodation for dozens of refugees and sans-papiers in Alsace. A psychiatrist who has travelled widely, Des Rosiers has also published four collections of poetry and a collection of essays, including Métropolis Opéra, Tribu, finalist for the Governor General's Award, Savanes, winner of the Prix d'excellence de Laval, and Théories caraïbes, winner of the Prix de la Société des écrivains canadiens. Hugh Hazelton is a poet and translator who teaches Spanish translation at Concordia University in Montreal. He has published three books of poetry, the most recent of which was Antimatter, and translated eight books, as well as a number of video and filmscripts, from Spanish and French into English. His critical work specializes in the interface between Québec, Canadian, and Latin American literatures.