Posts Tagged ‘Derek Walcott’

Walcott on Empire and Language

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

I thought this interview would be a good addition to the blog because Walcott speaks directly about empire, a prominent theme in his poetry that we focused on in Friday’s class. He gives an interesting definition of empire from his own perspective, and discusses his culturally and racially diverse background. He and the interviewer also engage in a discussion about language towards the end of the interview.  I think the last minute of the interview is also a highlight!

Still Looking for “The Lost Empire”

Friday, April 12th, 2013

I left class today feeling conflicted over our interpretation of Walcott’s Caribbean in “The Lost Empire”.

Now I have never been the Caribbean myself. However, I do sail, and that interest has thrust me into a community of those who spend winters there, maintaining boats whose owners are unwilling to both risk the damages of an east coast mooring or crew the vessel themselves. The result of this intimacy gives me an interesting perspective on the archipelago which Walcott describes to “look as if a continent fell and scattered into fragments” (lyric II, lines 2-3). This perspective is one which begs me argue against sentiments of the “small place produc[ing] nothing but beauty.”

The islands I perceive are home to a giant social george. That is, a gaping  chasm between rich and poor. The exact opposite of a “simplifying light” the author illustrates four lines from the bottom. Perhaps those who can afford it are “receiving vessels of each day’s grace”, but those who cannot seem to be receiving vessels of capitalist colonial fallout. Without an infrastructure to protect them from exploitation, the islands have become a bona fide waste basket for the overnight tourism boom. Pollution runs rampant under a disposable standard, and a people who may have once attempted to husband the albeit picturesque landscape are now plagued with Western growing pains.

It surprises me that Walcott doesn’t see this. Or that we are unable to trace an appropriate irony in his “content”. Lyrics I and II must be sewn together somehow. After centuries of haunting, “The Spectre of Empire” surely didn’t just pack up and leave….



Capri and “The Spectre of Empire”

Friday, April 12th, 2013

When I read “The Spectre of Empire,” the image Walcott uses to describe Capri, Italy stood out to me. He writes, “I just missed him as he darted the other way / in 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.”

I took the picture below when my sister and I visited Capri a few summers ago. In this picture, we are inside the Blue Grotto cave- and just like Walcott describes, the water is extremely blue! The tour guide explained to us how 2,000 years ago Roman Emperors occasionally used this cave for recreational purposes, but also as a hideout and passage way to hide or escape from invaders. As we rowed around in the Blue Grotto, the other tour guides started chanting an Italian song  (I caught a 10 second clip of the haunting chant/echo on my camera as well)– if the Spectre could sing, I bet that’s he would sound like.


IMG_0409 <–song clip

Walcott open thread

Thursday, April 11th, 2013


Some random thoughts:

This volume is making me think about the significance of titles. How does it impact our reading of the poem if the author titles some of his poems (and numbers all)? I find myself feeling more comfortable (at least initially) with poems such as “In Amsterdam” or “In Italy.” But maybe that’s because I feel more grounded in place.

Also, The New York Times called “White Egrets” an “old man’s book” in this review. I can’t decide how much I agree with that assessment…

In researching Walcott, I came across this documentary:
It’s not available yet (apparently it’s in the editing stage) but I’d be curious to see how the film deals with some of the sexual harassment accusations associated with Walcott. But anyways, if you’re feeling flush you can donate to them and get credited in the film. Nice.

Other reactions to Walcott?