It is not so much a matter of criticising Haiti from the point of view of modern culture, as imagining certain new cultural possibilities if once this singularly beautiful and tragic land were freed from the clutch of poverty.
Feel Free stands out today partly because of its formal and technical command and partly because of its conflicting desiderata: its poems want to be at once economical and impulsive, controlled yet digressive.
Making an artistic choice is fateful, almost synonymous with selective forgetting, and it is into this critical context that the Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins enters with the first-ever adaptation of Baldwin’s fiction in If Beale Street Could Talk (2018).
To an American, he sometimes recalls Frost, and Yvor Winters and his cohort, but he has a flair for the aleatory, and while Frost himself likes to undermine and enigmatize his forthrightness, Paterson often features that predilection.
Posing existential questions, Smith answers with further questions, explicit and unspoken (what’s a worse cause of death: the immutable circumstances of your birth and skin color, or a chance meeting with an officer of the law?).