This essay investigates a moment for Caribbean knowledge production in which intellectuals, gathered in Haiti in 1944 for an International Congress of Philosophy, questioned whether to politicize knowledge or to seclude it from politics. Focusing on Aimé Césaire’s “Poetry and Knowledge,” the author compares the 1944 conference paper with the version published in Tropiques in 1945 to show a feedback loop between poetry and politics. The war, the isolation, and the intellectual evolution of Tropiques coalesced to form a new environment that prompted Césaire to rethink the relation between poetic practice and political relevance. Illuminating the relation between poetry and politics, “Poetry and Knowledge” is symptomatic of an epistemological shift from poetic writing geared toward political actions to poetic knowledge uncorrupted by political considerations that prepared Césaire for undertaking in 1945 a new literary and political trajectory.

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