The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948–2013
The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 is the perfect Derek Walcott collection, encompassing all of his best-known and most popular poems.
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‘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 honours that the renowned poet Derek Walcott has received: a MacArthur Fellowship; the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry; the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 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 has grappled 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.
Walcott is a generous writer in every sense. The expansive, celebratory texture of his verse is instantly recognisable. It moves with ease between city and country, between "the snow still falling in white words on Eighth Street" and the way "Sunshine [. . .] stirs the splayed shadows of the hills like moths" . . . an astonishing poet.
The opening pages testify to [Walcott's] precociously stylish fluency and his early discovery of a subject he has yet to exhaust, the situation of a poet who writes from the margins of literary tradition . . . The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 ends with a bang: Walcott’s last collection, White Egrets (2010), shows the 80-year-old poet still ranging insistently across the Caribbean world he has delivered to his readers for six decades and finding within it the resources to address, with wit and colour, the historically determined landscapes he has lived in.
Walcott is a poet we are lucky to have writing . . . Taken as a whole, this collection gives us a kind of narrative – the story of a poet who is developing even in his eighties, sustained by faith in what poetic forms can do, and the many ways in which those forms can do it.
Few poets can sustain a collection spanning more than 600 pages . . . Derek Walcott is one of the rare exceptions, and this is his most comprehensive anthology so far. Covering nearly seven decades, it is testament to an extraordinary talent . . . and a reminder of a great poet, whose life has been as vast as his work.
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