This past fall I took a course called Haiti, A New World, A Free World: History, Art, Politics, and Revolution. Taught by the brilliant Professor Anthony Bogues, the class focused on the Haitian Revolution and the country’s visual art. After weeks of reading, viewing, and discussing, we eventually landed on the question: how do you write an impossible history? As a Haitian-American, my heart and brain bells were ding-dinging all autumn, reading through accounts, descriptions, and essays of my family’s homeland. The loudest sound of the ringing bell came when I read Colin Dayan’s phenomenal book, Haiti, History, and the Gods. In her introduction she points to her own complex relationship with family history. And, so inspired by the mountain she decided to climb in writing this force of a book, I decided to hike my own trail (always pacing myself up these mountains). I’ve written a short performative book called A Study of the Ghosts of Men, my turn at beginning to write an impossible history. One of the requirements, I think, of writing an impossible history is that one does so impossibly—in ways that resemble its broken parts, ways that refuse to wholly succeed, ways that demand simultaneous and different actions and attentions. Why? Because look at the stories we are trying to tell! I chose to intertwine text and performance, creating a book that you can read through, look at, and experience the performance of because none of these modes is going to be 100% on its own. As soon as you dip into one, you start to lose track of the others. Let’s drop the marbles; they’re not that precious. While putting together the book, I thought a lot about a class I took at Amherst College with the also brilliant professors John Drabinski and Rhonda Cobham-Sander. The class was called “The Creole Imagination,” looking at language and literature in the Caribbean. I often, but especially now, think of this quote from Derek Walcott’s What the Twilight Says:
Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.
It is a crazy thing to be able to finally, truly see yourself, even though there are so many cracks in the reassembled mirror. I offer this little book, this small meditation, as an invitation to consider how all of our lines are drawn, how our stories are told, how our histories are produced.