Goodbye Derek Walcott


The late Derek Walcott

One of my absolute favourite poems is Derek Walcott’s “The Schooner Flight”– the opening poem in the Walcott collection entitled “The Star-Apple Kingdom”.

This classic Walcott poem is an extended meditation on the predicament and promise of our Caribbean Civilization as manifested in the tragic life story of “Shabine’– a “red nigger who love the sea”, and who out of desperation ships “as a seaman on the schooner Flight” for a defining sea voyage that takes him from Trinidad in the south of the Caribbean to the innumerable islands of the Bahamas in the north, and ultimately to his death.

In recent times, whenever I travel outside of my island home I somehow feel compelled to take the text of “The Schooner Flight” with me– perhaps for the purpose of reminding myself of the plight and beauty and potential of our Caribbean Civilization.

I can think of no better way to express a public “good-bye” to Derek Walcott than by quoting the following passage from “The Schooner Flight” :-

Fall gently, rain, on the sea’s upturned face

like a girl showering; make these islands fresh

as Shabine once knew them! Let every trace,

every hot road, smell like clothes she just press

and sprinkle with drizzle……………………

Though my Flight never pass the incoming tide

of this inland sea beyond the loud reefs

of the final Bahamas, I am satisfied

if my hand gave voice to one people’s grief.

Open the map. More islands there, man

than peas on a tin plate, all different size,

one thousand in the Bahamas alone,

from mountains to low scrub with coral keys,

and from this bowsprit, I bless every town,

the blue smoke in hills behind them,

and the one small road winding down them like twine

to the roofs below; I have only one theme:

The bowsprit, the arrow, the longing, the lunging heart—

the flight to a target whose aim we’ll never know,

vain search for one island that heals with its harbor

and a guiltless horizon………………

There are so many islands!

As many islands as the stars at night

on that branched tree from which meteors are shaken

like falling fruit around the schooner Flight.

But things must fall, and so it always was,

on one hand Venus, on the other Mars;

fall, and are one, just as this earth is one

island of archipelagoes of stars.

My first friend was the sea. Now is my last.

I stop talking now………..

……………and the moon open

a cloud like a door, and the light over me

is a road in white moonlight taking me home.

Thank you Derek Walcott. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

27 thoughts on “Goodbye Derek Walcott

  1. March 17, 2017

    Derek Walcott dead at 87


    CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Nobel laureate poet Derek Walcott has died aged 87 at his home in the Caribbean island of St Lucia after a long illness, local media reports say.

    He was regarded by critics as one of the greatest Caribbean poets.

    The writer’s collections include In A Green Night: Poems 1948 – 1960 and his epic work, Omeros, which draws on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

    He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2011.

    His winning collection for the TS Eliot Prize, White Egrets, was called “a moving, risk-taking and technically flawless book by a great poet” by the judges.

    The Nobel Committee, announcing his prize, said: “His poetry acquires at one and the same time singular lustre and great force… Walcott’s style is melodious and sensitive.”

    The poet won many other prizes, including a MacArthur Foundation award – the so-called “genius grant“.

    Click here for full story.


  2. ”I have been bitten, I must not get an infection, or else I will be dead like Naipaul Fiction” . Lol, Walcott and Naipaul had a frictional relationship.

  3. It is time like these some question the value of the literary arts to making the world we live a better place. Why do we position people like Walcott et al on pedestals?

  4. @David. That’s a very philosophical question. I for one was never a fan of the non-prose style of expression.Too abstract for my liking. Anyway, I would rather put the artist on the pedestal any day over any sport stars. Brain over brawn.

    • @fortyacresandamule

      Good one!

      With sports there is the supporting argument of leisure, health,an avenue for men to channel bravado etc.

      Members of the BU intelligentsia who lean to the esoteric will be upset with you.

  5. David, surely that is an ‘odd’ question.

    Why do we put ‘anyone’ on a pedestal other than we appreciate and recognize that in his/her persona that they are striving to give voice to the trials and tribulations of this thing we assiduously manage daily called life.

    The poet, author, orator voices our trials in words; the scientist experiments and tests those trials in his lab. And on and on in the varied spheres of life.

    As long as we can appreciate the intent of the (any) man then the question of why he is acclaimed should be crystal clear: it’s the voice within us all that he has tuned beautifully to the ears of many.

    Frankly, exactly what trappings adorned his mortal soul or which city he called home or in fact what was his sphere of excellence are irrelevant… a good and propa voice resonates wherever it is heard.

    Derek Walcott as wonderfully brilliant and humanely flawed as man can be …was such a propa voice.

  6. Why should we not David. I will interpret your comments vis “… another human on a ‘pedestal’?” as a reference to the exalted deity.

    I do not perceive that people like Derek Walcott are being placed on a pedestal in that way…certainly not by clear thinking people,

    They are exalted for their ability to express the aspirations of many.

    I would offer that daily in Chimborazo or Market Hill or Selma or Flatbush that a really, really wonderful person who profoundly touched the lives of hundreds rather than millions like Walcott are sincerely placed on ‘pedestals’ at death.

    Lots of ‘other humans’ who are worthy get bombastic praise based on their mortal toils, Mr Blogmaster.

    Nothing sacrilegious about that.

    • @Dee Word

      How do you respond to the point by fortyacresandamule that to use non prose is perhaps contrarian to your –

      They are exalted for their ability to express the aspirations of many.

  7. @ David
    Walcott is a brilliant poet, but his true value to us is as a philosopher. No-one has given us a clearer vision of the catastrophe of British empire and the wreckage and flotsam it left behind.

    Down the Conradian docks of the rusted port,
    by gnarled sea grapes whose plates are caked with grime,
    to a salvo of flame trees from the old English fort,
    he waits, the white spectre of another time,
    or stands, propping the entrance of some hovel
    of a rumshop, to slip between the streets
    like a bookmark in a nineteenth century novel,
    as scuttering from contact as a crab retreats.
    He strolls along the waterfront’s old stench
    to the balcony shade of a store in Soufriere
    for the vantage point of a municipal bench
    in the volcanic furnace of its town square.
    I just missed him as he darted the other way
    in the bobbing crowd disgorging from the ferry
    in blue Capri, just as he had fled the bay
    of equally blue Campeche, and rose walled Cartagena,
    his still elusive silence growing more scary
    with every shouted question, because so many were
    hurled at him fleeing last century’s crime.

    Walking the drenched ramparts , tugging his hat brim,
    maintaining his distance on the deaf page,
    he can not hear the insults hurled at him ,
    bracing for the spluttering bribe. An image
    more than a man, this white-drill figure
    he smoked from a candle or stick of incense
    or a mosquito coil, his fame is bigger
    than his empire’s now, it’s slow-burning conscience.
    Smoke is the guilt of fire, so where he strolls,
    in Soufriere, in Sumatra, by any clogged basin
    where hulks have foundered and garbage scrolls
    it’s flag, he travels with its sin,
    it’s collapsed mines, its fortunes sieved through bets.
    He crosses a cricket field, overrun with stubble
    launching a fleet of white, immaculate egrets.

    The docks are dark and hooded, the warehouses
    locked, and his insomnia rages like the moon
    above the zinc roofs and spindly palms; he rouses
    himself and dresses slowly in his small room:
    he walks to the beach, the hills are brooding whales
    against them drift the flambeaux and the lanterns
    of the crab fishermen , the yachts have furled their sails,
    he goes for this long walk when guilt returns;
    indifferent to the constellation’s Morse
    his resignation no longer sends
    out fleets of power, an echo of that force
    like dissipating spume on the night sand.
    To the revolving beam of the Cyclopic lighthouse
    he hears the suction of his soul’s death rattle,
    but his is a history without remorse.
    He hears the mocking cannonade of battle
    from the charging breakers and hears the pluming hordes
    of tribesmen galloping down the hills of sand
    and hears the old phrase ‘Peccavi, I have Sind ‘
    Think of the treaties signed by his ringed hand,
    think of the width its power could encompass
    ‘one seventh of the moonlit globe’, we learnt in class.
    It’s promontories, docks, it’s towers and minarets
    with the power that vanished as dew does from the grass
    in the rising dawn of a sun that never sets.

    His fingers sticky with rum around a glass,
    he can see the scorched square where a saint presides,
    and it’s dry fountain where lizards shoot through grass
    and the cathedral’s candlelit insides.
    In the sunlit bar the woman draws the blinds.
    They look like the slitted lids of a lioness,
    (the yellow sheaves she hides are in his mind’s)
    the cafe is quiet, safe from the street’s noise,
    what he likes now confirms the aftermath
    of great events; a tilted sail, a heron
    elaborately picking out its path,
    a beetle on its back, such things wear on
    his concentrated care since the old scale
    has been reduced ( as are his circumstances)
    on the croton bush by the window the tail
    of the cat swishes as a dragonfly dances.
    A vast moral idleness stretching before him,
    the cafe’s demotic dialogues at peak hour.
    The things he cherishes now are things that bore him,
    and how powerlessness contains such power.
    The costumes that he wore and the roles which wore him.

    Derek Walcott

  8. Incidentally David, excellence in sports or any physical activity cannot so easily be conflated as excellence for the real ‘pedestal’.

    Absolutely a sportsperson can be acclaimed for their entire life’s work as well but not just what they did in their field of endeavor.

    Sir Viv or Sir Garry were brilliant surely. But that Hall of Fame greatness is a completely different acclaim!

    For arguments sake compare their life’s work on and off the field to that of a man like Roberto Clemente a great baseball star who then attempted to use his fame as a cause celebre to improve the lot of his countrymen in the Latin Amer & Caribbean region.

    Just a different perspective on what is adoration and the real acclaim of life’s true intent!

  9. Yes, David I can agree with the point by fortyacresandamule “that to use non prose is perhaps contrarian …”

    I myself find the cadence of some poetry (school dazes, Chaucer) a bit off-putting but Walcott was not too bad in that regard .

    If one is accustomed to a standard writing style of a period break for a sentence thought and so on then the ‘poetic style’ can indeed be quite contratrian but on the other hand it also offers an opportunity to move away from the normal and embrace a different way to engage.

    We see it in life.

    David Rudder with his different style was lambasted as a non-calypsonian as I recall…until be was accepted.

    The style of Lil Rick grated many too. And then we had Adonija’s Rhythm Verse spoken word.

    But did they all not evolve from what would be the old griots and their spoken-sung history…which too was dismissed as flawed and unacceptable by the colonial masters’ perception of a written word (world).

    My point simply is that we evolve as a society and embrace the differences of how knowledge and how the word is expressed…the more we get comfortable with the multi-lane highways and the more we improve our driving skills, we grow, learn and see new vistas.

    We can certainly stay in the single lane of our locales and be content and knowledgeable but why deny ourselves the vastness of those beautiful new vistas and new knowledge!

  10. @DP Dribbler @ 9:58 AM

    Eloquently put. If you continue in this vein I will build a pedestal for you. We eventually embrace our diversity of excellence. It is human nature and, dare I say, God’s nature.

  11. PL Thompson @9:14 AM

    “the catastrophe of British empire and wreckage …..”

    Wow ! What a mouthful! Out of this evil came the beautiful Caribbean nations and a creative and brilliant people.

  12. Too much abstraction can evoke a sense pretentiousness. Academia is guilty of this. None of much, like in the field of modern art.

    MAHDAI DAS, S GRAVES, ABDUR RAHAMAN S. HOPKINSON, W. Mc ANDREW, IAN McDONALD, NICHOLAS, NILAND, NARMALA SHEWCHARAN, R SINGH, AND UP COMING NARAINE DATT WHO SO FAR HAS 5 POETRY BOOKS (OVER 250 POEMS) UNDER HIS BELT. His body of work is far too voluminous and profound to deal with in greater detail within the confines of this short essay, but there are a few I would like to mention. To my mind, these poems are the quintessential poem of the Caribbean independence era!


    to publish it in 2018

            6 poems by Naraine Datt


    As you take your sip of tea
    Whether it be Liptons or Tetley
    Have you ever wonder
    The origin of its flavor
    You may not be so alarmed
    ‘cause it came from Assam
    Or shocked at this shameful horrible story
    Of the Teas of P G Tips, Twinings or Tetley
    Grown chiefly near the banks of the Brahmaputra
    It’s the largest tea producing plantations of India
    In an ideal of 96.8 º (F) temperature
    Giving it its malty taste and bright colour

    Often sold as sometimes Irish Breakfast Tea
    Or Black, or White or Green tea variety
    These teas, as shocking as was Slavery
    Has oodles of baggages of chicanery

    Your tea time may be your bliss
    And you may reject tea after this
    From whence it came
    They showed no shame
    If its from India behold
    Its a horrible story untold
    If its from the Assam estates of Assam
    Where the living condition is a sham
    The Giant Assam supply tea to the company
    Of PG Tips, Liptons, Twinings and Tetley
    The manager described conditions as a No No
    And so did Lady Sarah Roberts the big CEO

    She said workers conditions as not acceptable
    But did nothing which is damn deplorable
    What they meant was that the estate
    Of 740 homes couldn’t accommodate
    Workers to relieve themselves in 464 toilets
    After filling millions of back breaking baskets
    Many families when they get the rushes
    Just defecate amongst the tea bushes

    Sanitation amidst toilets blocked and broken
    With over flowing cesspits more than a token

    And on some estates even child labour are used.
    For managements’ behaviour left workers obtused
    So next time when its tea time around four pm
    Remember the pickers and the plight of them
    Think of where and why it tastes so refreshing
    Write to those who are doing your legislating
    It isn’t from the fresh air of Assam of the greedy plantation owners
    But maybe its from the excreta from the abused wretched

    2) India Came West

     The 13th of January was an ordinary day in India
     When in 1838, the Whitby sailed with 249 immigrants
     After 112 days she reached Georgetown, Guyana
     With her first batch trying to fulfill their needs and wants
     Not long after another the Hesperus came
     She sailed on the 19th January at much cost
     With 165 Indians on board it wasn’t the same
     For 13 died on board and at sea two were lost
     On the 30th of May in 1845 came the Rozack
     After 137 days she did not come to the main
     For stormy weather caused her a serious set-back
     With 225 souls she landed in Port of Spain
     The last ship was the Ganges
     Which sailed in 1917 on 17th January
     Thus ended coming of the jahajis
     Strong kinship made on the journey
     In 1917, 239,756 Indians were in Guyana
     Many died with flu epidemic and disease
     After five years many went back to India
     To their respective provinces and cities
     These pioneers came from Bengal and Behar
     The North West provinces of Oudh and Orissa
     From pretty Punjab and Uttar Pradesh so far
    From cities like Madras, Bombay and Calcutta
     After five years they were freed from their massahs
     With free passages back to Mother India
     Many were lured with false promises by harkatiyas
     Of easy jobs in the islands and Guyana
     They made homes in Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica
     St.Vincent, St. Lucia, Honduras, Guadeloupe
     Martinique, even Venezuela and tiny Grenada
     French Cayenne and also in the Dutch group
     Their hopes and aspirations were shattered
     By the treatment and racial molestations
     From the estate owners as they were scattered
     On the cocoa, corn and sugar plantations

     The massahs handled them like cattle
     And they met worse humiliating fates
     Living in long logies of mud and wattle
     When they bad to face the magistrates
     His rights were always met with denial
     Any breach of indentureship contract
     He was charged and dubbed a criminal
     For the massah was mean and exact
     They came to save the dilapidated economy
     When the Negro slaves got their emancipation
     In turn they were oppressed into slavery
     The reward for saving the English plantation
     On top of all their problems
     The Negroes made life very uneasy
     They ridiculed and molested them
     Calling them Babu and coolie
     They mocked their Hindu religion
     Called them pagans treated them as foes
     Molesting the youths were common
     So was the ridicule and abuse by Negroes
     The Indians suffered traumatic attacks
     They couldn’t live in peace and couldn’t win
     East Indians were forced to marry blacks
    Dougala meant straighter hair and fairer skin
     In many islands they lost their names and religion
     And they were completely integrated
     Only then they were more tolerated as kith and kin
     And then they were readily accepted
     No one was even in the Fast Indians’ niche
    The plantation owners had the law on their side
    For the magistrates were owned by the rich
    And Indian field-workers were in for a long ride
     The Negro later became a black Whiteman completely
     They almost lost their religion and were culture dead
     Were bent on forcing the Indians into their society
     Like them, only to become Brown Whitemen instead

     Now the Indians are the wealthiest in the Caribbean
     In Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname they are the majority
     The Coolie Baboos are educated, self-made and keen
     And owned most of the businesses, land and property
     These pioneers who came from Mother India
     Had the stamina and guts to come West
     Today the East Indians have a proud dharma
    And still practised with vigour and zest.
    2)”Luck is the residue of design.”
    Branch Rickey – former owner of the Brooklyn Dodger Baseball Team


    His brother’s idea was sold
    They were going for the gold
    The trip was laborious and slow
    And there he met his Waterloo
    The mountains called his name

    We make our beds and sow our seeds
    We live our lives in good and bad deeds
    We’re here for eternity forgetting we reap what we sow
    Remember if your time comes up then you have to go
    For St Peter has called your name

    At war we know foes were detested
    The Japanese abuse and molested
    The courageous women survived with songs and music
    And only hope comforted the wounded, lame and sick
    Then the US marines raised the Stars and Stripes

    He crossed the river many times
    Fighting the mud and the slimes
    It looked innocent like a sheet of glass
    Then he lost it and down he went, alas!
    The river called his name


    Imagine your worst nightmare
    But imagine its real
    Ever feel dark closing
    Its like an angry fist
    Every twitch and hoot
    Every skittering leaf
    Is a potential threat
    When Nature switches off her lights
    There’s nothing you can do
    To turn it back on again
    Imagine sleeping in a tree
    To avoid a mountain lion
    Or a gigantic grizzly bear
    Then you fell out of the tree
    Almost breaking your neck
    Now you sleep on the ground
    Jumping at the slightest sound
    In the wild time moves slowly
    A wind is just not a wind
    Its the email system
    Of the natural world
    Bringing in information
    About weather patterns
    Behaviour of animals
    Potential predators
    Rain isn’t a nuisance
    Its a respite from bugs
    Fresh water for drinking
    A snowfall isn’t a convenience
    It shows tracks of animals
    Could be potential meals
    Your survival may depend
    On the rustling of leaves
    The song of a bird
    Or the scrabble of a rodent
    A flicker of movement
    Through dense foliage
    Can mean life or death


    Some of our nation’s leaders’ve set a bad example
    For as they abuse, exploit, mow down and trample
    The very good people who put them in power
    Yet when rebuked or condemned they shower
    Them with long bullets as in the Arab spring
    Where the wrath of the people is still ringing
    From Yemen to Morocco
    The Arabs have gone loco
    Finally coming to their senses
    They’ve broken down defenses
    Putting an end to autocracy
    Replacing it with democracy
    Be careful of what you wish for, hm! they say
    Ensure you’re not caught in a political estray
    In the West mankind is very unkind too
    At times biting more than he can chew
    Sometimes he is too proud to admit he’s wrong
    Instead of waving and singing his patriotic song

    As in the case of Uncle Sam
    Camouflaged as a big scam
    The most powerful country in the world
    Running around with its flags unfurled
    As millions of folks are without medicare
    As the two parties jostle for votes in fear
    Here the rich can get away with murder
    Paving their way with a sly good lawyer
    Some are caught quickly in quagmire
    Plying their trade as a suicide bomber
    Many innocent folk suffers and get hurt
    As innocent by-standers lose their shirt
    Some unkind men pillage the earth
    Extracting and weakening its girth
    From the oil, coal and iron mines
    Aggravating so many fault lines
    Then there are the vultures
    Who disregard all cultures
    They are below man’s feces
    Killing endangered species
    They prey upon the weak and poor
    Thinking they are so darn cock-sure
    Dispensing all their hard drugs to them
    Luring them into an addiction problem
    Just for the green backs
    Using AK-47 in attacks
    And so it goes even when caught
    It always turned out to be naught
    For the Drug-lords sold their soul
    They know every law’s loophole

    Then they are the real hypocrites who really pray
    They’re the ones who go to church every Sunday
    Their sole evil intention all hell-bent
    Was to make Barak a one term President
    And then go to the big white house arena
    Debating issues to benefit the taxpayer
    Using filibustering as their con
    Eventually nothing is being done
    Mankind has become very cruel
    Behaving worst than a darn fool
    Where men abuse women and children
    Done solely by machismo egotistic men
    Single mothers become the breadwinners
    The grand-parents become the care-takers
    And children without parents to love
    Look for it in all places but not Above
    Many fall in cracks by the wayside
    Then they are in for long hard ride
    Mankind who used to be your brother
    Sadly today they’re killing one another
    And there is fundamentally very absent
    Respect for each of the commandment
    We really have to back to the basics
    Discard our hypocrisy and tricks
    Respect the laws of nature
    Do not be so darn cocksure
    Stop texting learn to talk to one another
    And go back being our brother’s keeper


    It was a huge dispute they came from
    The Pilgrims came in 1620 to America to live
    Away from folks across the pond i.e. England
    And formed the United States of America
    They wanted their religious freedom
    They never tried the take and to give
    That was something they never understand
    They nearly grasped our good ol’ Canada

    Slaves came from Africa to work their plantation
    Then they eventually freed them in a kind of way
    They reinforced their patriotism with segregation
    Today blacks are still treated like second-class citizens
    They’re still not getting the deserved representations
    Dr. Martin King died saying it would come one day
    He had a dream blacks would get full emancipation
    And would become real Americans and not denizens

    Before slavery so they had to do all the work
    But they had much natural resources
    And perseverance saw them through rough times
    Yet they still crow about the Wild West man!
    It wasn’t all play the work they couldn’t shirk
    They used the Negroes like work horses
    Black men used to fight the yellow man
    After grabbing the land from the red man

    Uncle Sam became very strong and mighty
    Went around the world putting out fires
    Those who lit the matches got burned
    They forced others to embrace democracy
    Their intentions were not based on honesty
    Then you cannot fight City Hall squires
    But from history they never learned
    And they ended in a land of plutocracy

    In the 21st century to the land of power spree
    Money to throw away give to friends and even burn
    They took until they emptied the coffers
    The banks and the stock brokers fleeced the poor
    They called it a financial collapse with glee
    The rich getting richer with money they never earn
    Dubbed just a bunch of thieves and pilfers
    Storing it abroad off-shore after some sly detours

    The kids are bombarded with social networks
    Commercials trending with fashion and easy wealth
    Music and games all trying to be the next star
    Neglecting the three R’s and forgo their education
    And most of the dumb members are real jerks
    Although some conning it all under skillful stealth
    And all want the blonde and the fast car
    Eventually to be left with a deep loss of rejection

    Many can’t count unless they get a calculator
    Many can’t spell so they can’t write
    Many can’t sing so they resort to that rap clap trap
    These are fruits of the Baby Boomers who have failed
    If they can’t be a teacher they’ll be the janitor
    Raising a family would not be light
    Should’ve listened to good music turn down the crap
    And experts telling how easily anything can be nailed

    But when its said and all is done
    America is always first when there’s a disaster
    She’s generous with the poor and downtrodden
    Don’t fool around with their flag or freedom
    Although the battle is never won
    Her democracy makes her blue blood stir
    Its indeed a land of the brave and the glutton
    Its also a land of the good and some very dumb


    From times immemorial we hear this
    As they embrace you with a big kiss
    If only I knew what was going on
    I would never have let them won
    Germans said the same thing which wasn’t news
    As death trains pulled up with loads of other Jews
    Ready for the dirty concentration camps
    As the wretched Jews so cold with cramps
    Thought they were going for a shower
    But death gas came down as they cower

    The whites said the same thing about apartheid
    But they turned their sly faces and went to hide
    However, some of the culprits hawks later became doves
    They testified they were ordered by those in white gloves
    But faced with the truth and reconciliation commission
    Some cried and begged for forgiveness and compassion
    They never knew and cried so very hard
    What was going on in their own back-yard

    But they discussed it at their backyard picnics
    And really had their laughs and their kicks
    Many of the whites did the same with segregation
    Maintained defiance stood by and took no action
    Preventing the blacks from using their water fountain
    Aided by the ku klux klan1 to date leaving a nasty stain
    Their white toilets or sitting up front in the bus
    Going to your own black school was a real fuss
    They’re protecting others on every mother’s soil
    Always their hidden agenda is grabbing all the oil
    Today signs of it props up now and again in real animosity
    For racial hatred is deeply embedded in the American psyche.


  14. Richard Drayton

    Yesterday at 19:00 ·

    Derek Walcott (1930- now to close with sad parenthesis -2017), is 6th from left in the top row. The year is 1950, and this is the very first matriculating class in Arts of the University College of the West Indies at Mona in Jamaica then just itself two years old. My mother Kathleen McCracken is second row up 5th from right. Walcott was ten months older than my mother and five months younger than my father. They brought to Mona such high ambitions about building a West Indian nation. In the same year of 1950, Walcott wrote the play ‘Henri Christophe’ which he produced with my mother and other student friends (possibly Charles W. A. Pilgrim, right of the top row? Or Vernon Smith, 3rd from top left, still practicing as a barrister in Barbados?) at the same time as Elsa Goveia was lecturing about the Haitian revolution. I mourn Walcott, but I also mourn and celebrate that whole generation.

    Image may contain: 31 people, people smiling, people standing

  15. What a path blazing generation it was.Did the women outnumber the men,even in those bygone years?

  16. A Caribbean Red Man who was under no delusion that he belonged to somewhere else. I liked that about him.

    The time will come
    when, with elation
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life

    “Love after Love” by Derek Walcott

    Tonight I shall read “The Spoiler’s return” and wonder at it all.

  17. Condolences to the family and friends of Sir Derek Walcott, thinker and poet extraordinaire. I have read several of his poems and was most impressed with this post-colonial thinker whose Nobel Laureate is testimony that he reached the apex of his stage of life.
    In my MPhil thesis I used an extract from ‘The Estranging Sea’ to demonstrate a purposeful point. Walcott wrote in that poem: “They do not ask us, master, do you accept this? A nature reduced to the service of praising or humbling men, there is a yes without question, there is assent founded on ignorance … there are spaces wider than conscience,”
    May Sir Derek Rest In Peace and Rise In Eternal Glory.


    New York’s tribute to Walcott. ..he published his first poem at 14 years old, that is when natural skills and talents develop in young boys and girls, contrary to what the idiots for government ministers Blackett and Mara Thompson think, that is the age natural skills and talents in youngsters should be honed and can reach it’s peak….. ages 12 and up.


    Derek Walcott and the Poetry of Liberalism

    By ADAM KIRSCHMARCH 20, 2017

    The death last week of Derek Walcott, at the age of 87, brought an end to one of the longest and most splendid careers in English-language poetry. It was an ending Mr. Walcott himself had been thinking about for decades. “I imagine my absence,” he wrote in his book “The Bounty,” and he took a sort of comfort in knowing that this absence would make no difference to nature: “the shadows returning exactly some May as they ought,/but with the seam of air I inhabited closed.”

    In a larger sense, too, the passing of Mr. Walcott feels like the closing of an era. For he was the last survivor of a group of three poets who, in the late 20th century, exerted an unparalleled moral influence on American letters, even though — or perhaps because — they were not American. Mr. Walcott, Joseph Brodsky and Seamus Heaney each won the Nobel Prize in Literature in the 1990s. They came from very different backgrounds: Mr. Brodsky grew up in a Jewish household in what was then Leningrad, Mr. Heaney was from Northern Irish farm country and Mr. Walcott was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where he died.


    Derek Walcott at home in St. Lucia. CreditMicheline Pelletier/Corbis, via Getty Images

    But all three poets spent a significant part of their lives in the United States, teaching at American colleges and becoming well known in the world of American poetry, where they were larger-than-life figures. It was not just that they were poets of genius; American poetry has had its share of those, as well. What set them apart was their intimate experience of history, and the lessons they drew from it about the close connection between poetry and freedom.

    Mr. Walcott was one of the great postcolonial writers in English. He was born on an island that was still a British colony, and he had both white and black ancestry. His early work seethes with the effort to understand where, and whether, he belongs in English literature. “I who am poisoned with the blood of both,/Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?” he asked. Mr. Heaney, who was born in Northern Ireland but lived as an adult in the Irish Republic, wrote at yet another of the British Empire’s bloody fault lines. And Mr. Brodsky, who spent years in a Soviet labor camp before escaping to the West, was pressed most closely of all by the ideologies of the 20th century.

    It is because they were heirs to bitter and complex historical conflicts — over race and nation, empire and language — that these poets learned to treasure the dimension of human experience that is not historical. Mr. Heaney’s emblem of history was an ancient corpse dug up in an Irish bog, its throat slit in some act of ritual or revenge: “the actual weight/of each hooded victim,/slashed and dumped.” But in his poem “To Urania,” Mr. Brodsky observed that Urania, the Greek muse of astronomy, is older than Clio, the muse of history. However overpowering history may seem, nature is prior, and more permanent. No wonder that all three poets wrote so lovingly about the natural world — none more so than Mr. Walcott, whose imagery of island life is pervasive, saturating: “I was fluent as water,/I would escape/with the linear elation of the eel.”

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    But it was language itself that proved to be the greatest realm of freedom. All three of these poets were practical mystics of language. For them, it offered an experience of the universe that was deeper and truer than that of any nation or even religion. Language, at least the language of poetry, had the power to name the world, and so to create it: “I seek/As climate seeks its style, to write/Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,/Cold as the curled wave,” Mr. Walcott wrote in an early poem, “Islands.” And in the end, Mr. Brodsky insisted, we are all the sum of our language: “What gets left of a man amounts/to a part. To his spoken part. To a part of speech.”

    Liberalism is often thought of as an unpoetic creed, because it has so much to do with refusal: refusal of dangerous political myths, of irrational passions, of the seduction of violence. But Mr. Walcott, Mr. Heaney and Mr. Brodsky were great poets of liberalism, who showed that it involves profound affirmations as well. They came to America for various reasons — personal, political and economic — and they had no illusions about this country (particularly not Mr. Walcott, who wrote about American racism with a cold eye).

    Still, these poets flourished here because there was a deep compatibility between their poetics of freedom and our tradition of liberty. America honored itself in honoring these immigrant artists, and in learning from them what freedom means. To close our borders, or our minds, to the next generation of such artists — as Donald Trump’s America now threatens to do — would be to forfeit one of the truest sources of American greatness.

    Adam Kirsch, a poet and critic, is the author of the forthcoming book “The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century.”

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