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The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

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A collection spanning the whole of Derek Walcott's celebrated, inimitable, essential career

"He gives us more than himself or ‘a world'; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language." Alongside Joseph Brodsky's words of praise one might mention the more concrete honors that the renowned poet Derek Walcott has received: a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry; the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The Poetry of Derek Walcott 19482013 draws from every stage of the poet's storied career. Here are examples of his very earliest work, like "In My Eighteenth Year," published when the poet himself was still a teenager; his first widely celebrated verse, like "A Far Cry from Africa," which speaks of violence, of loyalties divided in one's very blood; his mature work, like "The Schooner Flight" from The Star-Apple Kingdom; and his late masterpieces, like the tender "Sixty Years After," from the 2010 collection White Egrets.
Across sixty-five years, Walcott grapples with the themes that have defined his work as they have defined his life: the unsolvable riddle of identity; the painful legacy of colonialism on his native Caribbean island of St. Lucia; the mysteries of faith and love and the natural world; the Western canon, celebrated and problematic; the trauma of growing old, of losing friends, family, one's own memory. This collection, selected by Walcott's friend the English poet Glyn Maxwell, will prove as enduring as the questions, the passions, that have driven Walcott to write for more than half a century.

ISBN-13: 9780374537579

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: 09-05-2017

Pages: 640

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.90(d)

Derek Walcott (1930-2017) was born in St. Lucia, the West Indies, in 1930. His Collected Poems: 1948-1984 was published in 1986, and his subsequent works include a book-length poem, Omeros (1990); a collection of verse, The Bounty (1997); and, in an edition illustrated with his own paintings, the long poem Tiepolo's Hound (2000). His numerous plays include The Haitian Trilogy (2001) and Walker and The Ghost Dance (2002). Walcott received the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1988 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Glyn Maxwell was born in Welwyn Garden City, England. He is the author of several collections of poems, has staged several plays in London and New York, and was the poetry editor of The New Republic from 2001 to 2007. He lives in London.

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25 Poems



The fishermen rowing homeward in the dusk,
Yet others, who now watch my progress outward To a sea which is crueler than any word Of love, may see in me the calm my voyage makes,

for Warwick Walcott

Having measured the years today by the calendar That tells your seventeenth death, I stayed until It was the honest time to remember How the house has lived with and without you well.
Nor can I hurl taunts or tantrums.

We started from places that saw no gay carracks wrecked And where our green solitudes did not look deciduous;
To teach us writing. Outside boyhoods chased their leather Football along the level glare of playing fields, and Sweated and cursed amiably, while we sat, with slow tears Shaping the heart's weather.

It is too early or too late, to ask if we were gifted With this pain that saw all, yet was no man's remedy,
We learned to hate from too much rumor, friends and masters,
Of time, who could not see like us their deep affliction;
And love came, cracked the hearts it joined just as love ought,

Where you rot under the strict gray industry Of cities of fog and winter fevers, I Send this to remind you of personal islands For which Gauguins sicken, and to explain How I have grown to know your passionate Talent and this wild love of landscape.

It is April and already no doubt for you As the journals report, the prologues of spring Appear behind the rails of city parks,
And you must find it difficult to imagine This April as a season where the tide burns Black; leaves crack into ashes from the drought;
Made me think of your chief scenes for painting And days of instruction at the soft villa When we watched your serious experience, learning.
But the grace we avoid, that gave us vision,

After that hot gospeler had leveled all but the churched sky,
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
In town leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath

Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,

As John to Patmos, among the rocks and the blue live air, hounded His heart to peace, as here surrounded By the strewn silver on waves, the wood's crude hair, the rounded Breasts of the milky bays, palms, flocks, and the green and dead Leaves, the sun's brass coin on my cheek, where Canoes brace the sun's strength, as John in that bleak air,
This island is heaven away from the dustblown blood of cities,
As John to Patmos, among each love-leaping air,

I with legs crossed along the daylight watch The variegated fists of clouds that gather over The uncouth features of this my prone island.

Meanwhile the steamers that disturb our lost horizons prove Us lost.
Time creeps over the patient who are too long patient.
And my life, too early of course for the profound cigarette,
I go of course through all the isolated acts,
Until from all I turn to think how In the middle of the journey through my life O how I came upon you, my Reluctant leopard of the slow eyes.



Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos



Talk less of solitudes, corners of lonely talent,
The ghosts vanish, stars fall like eyes,
Islands curved like the fling of a stone to sea,
Instinctive always with migratory companions,
Not with excesses, but thoughtless and satisfied,
In that villa, overlooking the town We did not learn much, but we were secure On Saturdays, in the smell of oil and paint.
And then at evening again the broad light dying From the exiling sea.





Time is the guide that brings all to a crux,
These sleep like islands, and I watch sleep lick Their arms' flung promontories, remove With individual erasure all their love Of muscle. Now towards the sea there, I look

Where rippling signatures of water break Over the sighing dormitories of The drowned whom soft winds move,
Or from these boys, who in the uncertain luck Of sleep, expect to live,

O child as guiltless as the grass,

He walked a bridge where Gulls' wings brush wires and sound A harp of steel in air,
Liberty offered God a match.
Bye, bye to Brooklyn,
The sea was only ritual, he had Already seen complexity go mad In the asylum, metaphor. He stood From Brooklyn, on the brink Of being, a straw doll blown From Manhattan to Mexico to sink Into that sea where vast deliriums drown.


Behind the stained water of the lucent panes, they Bend their white monotony of prayers,

Their lips turn pages of their meditation,
A life devoted to whispers. Are they Secure from doubt, do work and prayers

Postpone the heretic, Thought, the anemic meditation,
Does that one in gardens, cultivating rows of prayers To the Little Flower, remember Wales or Mayo? They

Are expressionless as gowns, their laughter Faith makes hysteria, deepening meditation.

Early to rise and hard to die, does the bell's cracked faith Weary or win, do the young nun's prayers

Offend the wrinkled sister who clucks at meditation As interrupting cooking? O how assured are they?

Admirable sacrifice, since they are human, that they Young in direction, bend sapling strong to faith,

Faith. A worn carpet under an old nun's feet, and prayers A novice's candle nervous with meditation.


The peanut barrows whistle, and the ladies with perfumes And prophylactics included in the expenses Hiss in a minor key, the desperate think of rooms
Walking near parks, where the trees, wearing white socks Shake over the illicit liaison under the leaves,
Have still to be tested, and stores shut up their eyes At the beggars and hoodlums, when the skin breaks From the city and the owls, and maggots and lice,
THE WRATH OF GOD flames like a neon sign on railings, they Scatter their cargo of sleepless fleas,
By lanternlight the pocomania of the Second Coming when De Lawd say Him going tyake us by the hand, or in antiphony A calypso wafts from the pubs, and Ulysses again
The theaters are wounded with midnight, and the lymph Of the innocent and guilty pour from their sides,
And always to the alone, the stone villas with the prosaic Essay on façades, wink out their yellow welcomes, one by one,
Point some to a wife warm bed, or the arms of lice Kneeling to the shout in the street, and sleep's equation Lays the black down with the white, and death at half the price

Excerpted from "The Poetry Of Derek Walcott 1948–2013"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Derek Walcott.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

From 25 Poems (1949)

The Fishermen Rowing Homeward . . . 3

In My Eighteenth Year 4

Private Journal 5

Letter to a Painter in England 6

A City's Death by Fire 8

As John top Patmos 9

I with Legs Crossed Along the Daylight Watch 10

From Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949) Canto II 13

From Poems (1957)

The Dormitory 19

To Nigel 20

Hart Crane 21

The Sisters of Saint Joseph 22

Kingston-Nocturne 23

From in a Green Night (1948-60)

A Far Cry from Africa 27

Runis of a Great House 29

Tales of the Islands 31

Return to Dennery, Rain 37

Pocomania 40

Parang 42

A Careful Passion 43

A Letter from Brooklyn 45

Brise Marine 47

Anadyomene 48

A Sea-Chantey 49

In a Green Night 52

Islands 54

From the Castaway (1965)

The Castaway 57

The Swamp 59

A Village Life 61

A Tropical Bestiary 64

Goats and Monkeys 69

Veranda 71

Nights in the Gardens of Port of Spain 73

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 74

Crusoe's Journal 75

Crusoe's Island 78

Codicil 83

From the Gulf (1969)

The Corn Goddess 87

From Metamorphoses: Moon 88

Junta 89

Mass Man 91

Miramar 92

Exile 93

The Train 96

Homage to Edward Thomas 97

The Gulf 98

Elegy 102

Blues 104

Air 106

Che 108

Negatives 109

Homecoming: Anse La Raye 110

The Cell 112

Star 113

Love in the Valley 114

The Walk 116

Hic Jacet 117

From Another Life (1973)

From Book I: The Divided Child: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 121

From Book II: Homage to Gregorias: 8 151

From Book III: A Simple Flame: 14, 15 158

From Book IV: The Estranging Sea: 20, 21, 22, 23 170

From sea Grapes (1976)

Sea Grapes 197

Adam's Song 198

Party Night at the Hilton 199

The Lost Federation 200

Parades, Parades 202

Dread Song 204

Names 207

Sainte Lucie 211

Ohio, Winter 224

The Chelsea 225

Love After Love 227

Dark August 228

The Harvest 229

Midsummer, Tobago 230

To Return to the Trees 231

From the Star-Apple Kingdom (1979)

The Schooner Flight 237

The Sea Is History 253

Egypt, Tobago 257

R.T.S.L. 261

Rorest of Europe 263

Koening of the River 266

The Star-Apple Kingdom 270

From the Fortunate Traveller (1982)

Old New England 285

North and South 287

Map of the New World 292

Roman Outposts 294

Greece 295

The Man Who Loved Islands 297

Jean Rhys 300

The Spoiler's Return 303

The Hotel Normandie Pool 309

Easter 316

The Fortunate Traveller 319

The Season of Phantasmal Peace 327

From Midsummer (1984)

I "The jet bores like a silverfish through volumes of cloud-" 331

II "Companion in Rome, who Rome makes as old as Rome" 332

III "At the Queen's Park Hotel, with its white, high-ceilinged rooms" 333

IV "This Spanish port, piratical in diverseness" 334

V "The hemispheres lie sweating, flesh to flesh" 335

VI "Midsummer stretches beside me with its cat's yawn" 336

VII "Our houses are one step from the gutter. Plastic curtains" 337

XIII "Today I respect structure, the antithesis of conceti" 338

XIV "With the frenzy of an old snake shedding its skin" 339

XV "I can sense it coming from far, too, Maman, the tide" 340

XVI "So what shall we do for the dead, to whose conch-bordered" 341

XVII "I pause to hear a racketing triumph of cicadas" 342

XIX (Gauguin I and II) "On the quaus of Papeete, the dawdling white-ducked colonists" 343

XXI "A long, white, summer cloud, like a cleared linen table" 345

XXII "Rest, Christ! From tireless war. See, it's midsummer" 346

XXIII "With the Stampeding hiss and scurry of green lemmings" 347

XXVIII "Something primal in our spine makes the child swing" 348

XXIX "Perhaps if I'd nurtured some divine disease" 349

XXX "Gold dung and ruinous straw from the horse garages" 350

XXXI "Along Cape Cod, salt crannies of white harbors" 351

XXXIV "Thalassa! Thalassa! The thud of that echoing blue" 352

XXXV "Mud. Clods. The sucking heel of the rain-flinger" 353

XXXVI "The oak inns creak in their joints as light declines" 354

XXXVIII "Autumn's music grates. From tuning forks of branches" 355

XLI "The camps hold their distance-brown chestnuts and gray smoke" 356

XLII "Chicago's avenues, as white as Poland" 357

XLVIII "Raw ochre sea cliffs in the slanting afternoon" 358

L "I once gave my daughters, separately, two conch shells" 359

LI "Since all of your work was really an effort to appease" 360

LII "I heard them marching the leaf-wet roads of my head" 361

LIV "The midsummer sea, the hot pitch road, this grass, these shacks that made me" 362

From the Arkansas Testament (1987)

Cul de Sac Valley 365

The Three Musicians 372

Saint Lucia's First Communion 377

Gross-Ilet 378

White Magic 380

The Light of the World 382

Oceano Nox 386

To Norline 390

Winter Lamps 391

For Adrian 396

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen: Part II 398

The Arkansas Testament 400

From the Bounty (1997)

The Bounty 417

2 Signs 427

5 Parang 430

6 "It depends on how you look at the cream church on the cliff" 433

8 Homecoming 434

10 "New creatures ease from earth, nostrils nibbling air" 437

16 Spain 438

21 Six Fictions 441

22 "I am considering a syntax the color of slate" 446

23 "I saw stones that shone with stoniness, I saw thorns" 447

26 "The sublime always begins with the chord 'And then I saw'" 448

28 "Awaking to gratitude in this generous Eden" 449

30 "The sea should have settled him, but its noise is no help" 450

31 Italian Eclogues 451

32 "She returns to her role as a seagull. The wind" 456

34 "At the end of this line there is an opening door" 457

37 "After the plague, the city-wall caked with flies, the smoke's amnesia" 458

From Tiepolo's Hound (2000)

I "They stroll on Sundays down Dronningens Street" 461

II "What should be true of the remembered life" 468

III "Flattered by any masterful representation" 475

XX "Over the years the feast's details grew fainter" 481

XXI "Blessed Mary of the Derelicts. The church in Venice" 487

XXII "One dawn I woke up to the gradual terror" 493

XXIII "Teaching in St. Thomas, I had never sought it out" 499

From The Prodigal (2004)

1 "In autumn, on the train to Pennsylvania" 509

2 "Chasms and fissures of the vertiginous Alps" 515

3 "Blessed are the small farms conjugating Horace" 522

4 "O Genoan, I come as the last line of where you began" 528

9 "I lay on the bed near the balcony in Guadalajara" 534

11 "The dialect of the scrub in the dry season" 540

12 "Prodigal, what were your wanderings about?" 544

18 "Grass, bleached to straw on the precipices of Les Cayes" 548

From White Egrets (2010)

1 "The chessment are as rigid on their chessboard" 555

2 "Your two cats squat, heraldic sphinxes, with such" 556

3 "This was my early war, the bellowing quarrels" 557

4 White Egrets 558

5 The Acacia Trees 563

6 "August, the quarter-moon dangles like a bugle" 565

7 "It's what others do, not us, die, even the closest" 566

8 Sicilian Suite 567

10 In Italy 574

12 The Lost Empire 582

13 The Specter of Empire 584

14 Pastoral 587

15 A London Afternoon 588

21 A Sea-Change 590

23 "What? You're going to be Superman at seventy-seven?" 591

24 "The sorrel rump of a mare in the bush" 592

27 Sixty Years After 593

30 "All day I wish I was at Case-en-Bas" 594

32 "Be happy now at Cap, for the simplest joys-" 595

33 In Amsterdam 596

39 "For the crackle and hiss of the word 'August'" 598

43 Forty Acres 599

44 "'So the world is waiting for Obama,' my barber said" 600

45 "In the leathery closeness of the car through canefields" 601

46 "Here's what that bastard calls 'the emptiness'-" 602

47 Epithalamium: The Rainy Season 603

50 Barcelona 604

52 Elegy 605

54 "This page is a cloud between whose fraying edges" 606

Index of Titles and First Lines 607