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The Poems of Derek Walcott

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“…in spite of the gift of language, Caliban remains too heavily mired in nature for its uplifting powers of reason and civilization.”- (Paget, 20)

“Break a vase, and the love that resembles the fragments is greater than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was a whole.” (Walcott, Nobel Speech)

The issue of cultural blend is central to Caribbean poetics and politics. The poetics of this ‘New World’ claimed to emerge from a landscape devoid of narrative, without history. Yet, Derek Walcott’s poetry is replete with allusions to history, with an undercutting of the imposed past, with an emphasis on language being central to knowledge, with a poet-speaker whose figure is an enmeshing of both the public and the personal. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Derek Walcott, contemplating “the proportions of the ideal Caribbean city”, proposes that

“it would be so racially various that the cultures of the world – the Asiatic, the Mediterranean, the European, the African – would be represented in it . . . Its citizens would intermarry as they chose, from instinct, not tradition, until their children found it increasingly futile to trace their genealogy.”

Walcott’s poetry is informed by the blend of cultures (Caribbean and ‘Western’) in which he finds himself. He does manifest a peculiar “schizophrenia” where he is “wrenched by two styles”, but also works with it as a politics of parodying the colonizer/outsider whose influence has infiltrated into his own cultural coordinates. Yet this parody is not completely devoid of identification with “the intimate enemy” (Ashish Nandy,1983), sometimes even to the extent of embracing the ‘other’. Walcott insists that no moment of ‘original’ national ‘purity’ should dominate the ima...

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7. Gates, Henry Louis (Jr.). The Signifyin(g) Monkey. Oxford: Oxford University press, 1988. Print.

8. Paget, Henry. Caliban’s Reason. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.

9. Spivak, Gayatri. The Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Print.

10. Torres-Saillant, Silvio. Caribbean Poetics: towards an aesthetic of West Indian Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

11. Walcott, Derek.-

-Collected Poems. New York: Farrar, Giroux, Strauss, 1986. Print.

-Dream on Monkey-mountain and Other Plays. New York: Farrar, Giroux, Strauss, 1970. Print.

-Nobel Acceptance Speech, December, 1992. Accessed on 13th April, 2014, 11:12AM

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1992/walcott-lecture.html

12. Young, Robert J.C. Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, Race. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.
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