Poetry Wednesday – Derek Walcott
Bringing you a little poetry, every week, once a week.
Welcome to the first installment of Poetry Wednesday. Get your weekly dose of verse right here!
This week: DEREK WALCOTT. Walcott has been a favorite poet of mine since I took a class on post-colonial literature my freshman year of college. His most common themes are race, the caribbean and nature. Though his poetry is laden with references, I believe it is still accessible to all readers. I like poetry with a little mystery in it, that you just might have to go researching for. Here is a good example:
As John to Patmos
As John to Patmos, among the rocks and the blue, live air, hounded
His heart to peace, as here surrounded
By the strewn-silver on waves, the wood’s crude hair, the rounded
Breasts of the milky bays, palms flocks, the green and dead
Leaves, the sun’s brass coin on my cheek, where
Canoes brace the sun’s strength, as John, in that bleak air,
So am I welcomed richer by these blue scapes, Greek there,
So I shall voyage no more from home; may I speak here.
This island is heaven – away from the dustblown blood of cities;
See the curve of bay, watch the straggling flower, pretty is
The wing’d sound of trees, the sparse-powdered sky, when lit is
The night. For beauty has surrounded
Its black children, and freed them of homeless ditties.
As John to Patmos, in each love-leaping air,
O slave, soldier, worker under red trees sleeping, hear
What I swear now, as John did:
To praise lovelong, the living and the brown dead.
So, I don’t know or understand the John to Patmos reference; however, I get it. I understand through what Walcott evokes in this poem what is meant by “as John to Patmos”. The beauty of life and its relationship to hoplessness. I think ultimately this is a poem of hope that does not necessarily ignore pain. It is the idea that those two things can coexist – death and life, hope and despair, beauty and the absence of beauty. I think that’s a good poem, a poem that evokes the reference, even if you don’t know it. Now I’m going to go look up John and Patmos.
Ah ha! John of Patmos is the author of the Book of Revelation. This makes so much sense! Essentially the idea of the apocalypse is contradiction. It is pain, followed by peace. Despair followed by hope. Walcott took this idea and wrote his own poem of Revelations. I love the use of the Bible to give meaning to something secular. Though I am not religious, I believe that religion is part of our culture, and the Bible is one of the origins of Western literature.
What do you think of Walcott’s poem? Does this poem make you want to read more by Walcott?
Do you regularly read poetry? Would you like to read more poetry?