January 16, 2018
Derek Walcott's Caribbean NobelOn this day in 1930 Derek Walcott was born on St. Lucia. Walcott's two-dozen collections of poems and plays -- one recent work, Tiepolo's Hound, widens the range by including his paintings -- earned the 1992 Nobel. The Nobel committee cited the "multicultural commitment" in Walcott's work, and so many followed suit (often adding "post-colonial") that interviewers now get a forewarning: "If anybody uses the word 'multiculturalism' I'm walking out of the room." There is a similar island breeze in Walcott's other interviews: Describe a typical day? "I work very early until noon, then look at nonsense on the TV in my pajamas." Why does he rise at dawn? "To smoke." Fame?
as in Balthus,
a wall, a brown tower
at the end of a street,
a blue without bells,
like a dead canvas
set in its white
frame. . . .
are far fishermen's fires, not glittering cities,
Genoa, Milan, London, Madrid, Paris,
but crab-hunters' torches. This small place produces
nothing but beauty, the wind-warped trees, the breakers
on the Dennery cliffs, and the wild light that loosens
a galloping mare on the plain of Vieuxfort make us
merely receiving vessels of each day's grace,
light simplifies us whatever our race or gifts.
I'm content as Kavanagh with his few acres;
for my heart to be torn to shreds like the sea's lace,
to see how its wings catch colour when a gull lifts.
(from "The Lost Empire")
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