April 6, 2010

Derek Walcott and the Caribbean Light

In this 1970 interview with Pearl London, Derek Walcott speaks about his creative process and the “honesty of a line of poetry.” Later, he ruminates on the “shapes of light” and the differences between living in a metropolis and the Caribbean:

Reason is the god in cities. Time dominates logic and reason, conversation and life. It's a polysyllabic existence that doesn't confront certain numinous experiences, such as boat, sea, tree. The reduction of the relationship of the experience is not superior in a metropolis, in fact I think it is inferior…We have to be very careful that we aren't insulted, or we don't insult ourselves, by using language defined by the metropolis to define us. In other words, when people tell me I come from a "primal," which I now use instead of "primitive," society, that's fine with me. Backwards societies of course have what is great in them, and that is the numinous, the household gods, the immediate—all these things have more presence.  (Huffington News. Net)

Reading White Egrets, I continue to be amazed not only with Walcott’s ability to capture the “light” of various landscapes and to record events (that’s the work of journalists), but also to transform the experience into an aesthetic object that is true to the demands of verse.


When light fell on the bushes beyond Soufrière,
it was orderly, it named what it fell on—
hog plum and zaboca, dasheen, tannia, and melon,
and between the hills, the orange and vermilion
immortelles that marked the cocoa’s boundaries.
We stopped there, driving in prolonged stupor
through perfection framing itself, like the light
that named the town walls of Le Marche, the shore
of the nibbling Adriatic, that made me elate
as a wind-blown chicken-hawk, or an eagle’s emblem
over L’Aquilia, or where a hidden, guttural brook
recited “Piton Flore, Piton Flore,” cedar, cypress, and elm
spoke one language, leaves from a trusted book
open at summer. I stopped and listened to them.


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