Read ‘A Stateless Poem’ by Danielle Legros Georges, from the new anthology New Daughters of Africa

In celebration of Women’s Month, The JRB presents a series of excerpts from New Daughters of Africa.

Edited by Margaret Busby, New Daughters of Africa is an anthology of the work of more than 200 women writers of African descent. It follows on from Busby’s seminal 1992 book, Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present.

In the August issue of The JRB, enjoy Afua Hirsch’s essay ‘What Does it Mean to Be African?’, an excerpt from the much-anticipated English translation of Angolan-Portuguese writer Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida’s debut novel That Hair, and this Danielle Legros Georges poem, ‘A Stateless Poem’.

Born in Haiti, Danielle Legros Georges is a writer and translator, and the author of two books of poetry, Maroon (2001) and The Dear Remote Nearness of You (2016), which won the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, and the chapbook Letters from Congo (2017). She is also the editor of City of Notions: An Anthology of Contemporary Boston Poems (2017). She is a Professor at Lesley University and is Boston’s second Poet Laureate.


A Stateless Poem

If you are born, and you are stateless,
if you are born, and you are homeless,

if your state and home are not
yours—and yet everything you know—

what are you? Who are you? And who
am I without the dark fields I walk upon,

the streets I know, the blue corners
I call mine, the ones you call yours …

Who am I to call myself citizen, and
human and free? And who are you

to call yourself landed and grounded,
and free. And who is judge enough?

Who native? Who other?

And who are we who move so freely
without accents of identification,

without skin of identification, with
all manner of identification. With

gold seals of approval. With stamps
of good fortune. With the accident

of blameless birth. Who are we to be
so lucky?

‘A Stateless Poem’ addresses a September 2013 ruling by the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court that stripped citizenship of Dominican-born persons without a Dominican parent, going back to 1929. The majority of persons affected are Dominicans of Haitian descent.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This poem appears in The Dear Remote Nearness of You by Danielle Legros Georges. Copyright © 2016 by Danielle Legros Georges. Republished with permission of the author.

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