Mar 1, 2010

Soule Restaurant: National Poetry Recognition Month - Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott, native of St. Lucia, studied at St. Mary’s College and the University of West Indies in Jamaica before moving to Trinidad in 1953, where he worked as a theatre and art critic.

His first poem, 1944,was published when he was only 14 years old, and by age 19, he had published Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos and 25 Poems as well.

Walcott’s talent is not limited to poetry; he has also published essays, novels and plays, and several of his plays have been produced throughout the United States.
In 1992, Walcott was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature for Omeros, an epic poem that takes its name from the Greek poet Homer.

The poem draws parallels with both Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, with the heroes Achille and Hector in love with the same woman: Helen.

Rather than retelling Homer’s tale, Walcott tells the story of slavery and its effects on the culture of the Caribbean.

One verse that is particularly poignant described a conversation between Philoctetes’ and Ma Kilman where he voices his frustration about his leg-wound from being struck by an anchor. The wound will not heal and to he speaks of the burden it represents.

Philoctete, his trouser-legs rolled, stares out to sea
from the worn rumshop window. The itch in the sore
tingles like the tendrils of the anemone,

and the ouffed blister of Portuguese man-o’-war.
He believed the swelling came from the chained ankles
of his grandfathers. Or else why was there no cure?

That the cross he carried was not only the anchor’s
but that of his race, for a village black and poor
as the pigs that rooted in its burning garbage,

then were hooked on the anchors of the abattoir.

Derek Walcott’s Nobel Prize for Literature was well-deserved, and in honor of National Poetry Recognition Month, Soulé salutes him.

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