Wednesday, 29 March 2017

An Inspirational Interview of sorts with Derek Walcott! Couldn't have been better!

Remembering a legend and his artistic ensemble, in this month of mourning for Derek Walcott - a much-loved Nobel laureate of our times!  (23 January 1930 – 17 March 2017).

In this candid interview with Edward, Derek Walcott deliberates on a host of issues close to his heart - on the English language, on being a Caribbean writer, on V. S. Naipaul, on the importance of the figure of Robinson Crusoe to him, on Heaney, on his guru Robert Lowell, his style of writing, and lots more...

Reproducing below, a wonderfully taken interview - i would personally rate it the best Derek has given - where he opens his mind and heart to everything about Derek - the artist!

INTERVIEWER: What would you say about the epiphanic experience described in Another Life, which seems to have confirmed your destiny as a poet and sealed a bond to your native island?

There are some things people avoid saying in interviews because they sound pompous or sentimental or too mystical. I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer. I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation. What I described in Another Life—about being on the hill and feeling the sort of dissolution that happened—is a frequent experience in a younger writer. 

I felt this sweetness of melancholy, of a sense of mortality, or rather of immortality, a sense of gratitude both for what you feel is a gift and for the beauty of the earth, the beauty of life around us. When that’s forceful in a young writer, it can make you cry. It’s just clear tears; it’s not grimacing or being contorted, it’s just a flow that happens. The body feels it is melting into what it has seen. This continues in the poet. It may be repressed in some way, but I think we continue in all our lives to have that sense of melting, of the “I” not being important. That is the ecstasy. It doesn’t happen as much when you get older. 

There’s that wonderful passage in Traherne where he talks about seeing the children as moving jewels until they learn the dirty devices of the world. It’s not that mystic. Ultimately, it’s what Yeats says: “Such a sweetness flows into the breast that we laugh at everything and everything we look upon is blessed.” That’s always there. It’s a benediction, a transference. It’s gratitude, really. The more of that a poet keeps, the more genuine his nature. I’ve always felt that sense of gratitude. I’ve never felt equal to it in terms of my writing, but I’ve never felt that I was ever less than that. And so in that particular passage in Another Life I was recording a particular moment.

INTERVIEWER: How do you write? In regard to your equation of poetry and prayer, is the writing ritualized in any way?

I don’t know how many writers are willing to confess to their private preparatory rituals before they get down to putting something on paper. But I imagine that all artists and all writers in that moment before they begin their working day or working night have that area between beginning and preparation, and however brief it is, there is something about it votive and humble and in a sense ritualistic. 

Individual writers have different postures, different stances, even different physical attitudes as they stand or sit over their blank paper, and in a sense, without doing it, they are crossing themselves; I mean, it’s like the habit of Catholics going into water: you cross yourself before you go in. Any serious attempt to try to do something worthwhile is ritualistic. I haven’t noticed what my own devices are. But I do know that if one thinks a poem is coming on—in spite of the noise of the typewriter, or the traffic outside the window, or whatever—you do make a retreat, a withdrawal into some kind of silence that cuts out everything around you. 

What you’re taking on is really not a renewal of your identity but actually a renewal of your anonymity, so that what’s in front of you becomes more important than what you are. Equally—and it may be a little pretentious-sounding to say it—sometimes if I feel that I have done good work I do pray, I do say thanks. It isn’t often, of course. I don’t do it every day. I’m not a monk, but if something does happen I say thanks because I feel that it is really a piece of luck, a kind of fleeting grace that has happened to one. Between the beginning and the ending and the actual composition that goes on, there is a kind of trance that you hope to enter where every aspect of your intellect is functioning simultaneously for the progress of the composition. But there is no way you can induce that trance.

Lately, I find myself getting up earlier, which may be a sign of late middle age. It worries me a bit. I guess this is part of the ritual: I go and make a cup of coffee, put on the kettle, and have a cigarette. By now I’m not too sure if out of habit I’m getting up for the coffee rather than to write. I may be getting up that early to smoke, not really to write.

INTERVIEWER: What time is this?

It can vary. Sometimes it’s as early as half-past three, which is, you know, not too nice. The average time would be about five. It depends on how well I’m sleeping. But that hour, that whole time of day, is wonderful in the Caribbean. I love the cool darkness and the joy and splendor of the sunrise coming up. I guess I would say, especially in the location of where I am, the early dark and the sunrise, and being up with the coffee and with whatever you’re working on, is a very ritualistic thing. I’d even go further and say it’s a religious thing. It has its instruments and its surroundings. And you can feel your own spirit waking.

INTERVIEWER: Another Life suggests that eventually you gave up painting as a vocation and decided to concentrate on poetry. Recently, though, you seem to be at work on your watercolors again. What happened?

What I tried to say in Another Life is that the act of painting is not an intellectual act dictated by reason. It is an act that is swept very physically by the sensuality of the brushstroke. I’ve always felt that some kind of intellect, some kind of preordering, some kind of criticism of the thing before it is done, has always interfered with my ability to do a painting. I am in fairly continual practice. I think I’m getting adept at watercolor. I’m less mucky. I think I could do a reasonable oil painting. I could probably, if I really set out, be a fairly good painter. I can approach the sensuality. I know how it feels, but for me there is just no completion. I’m content to be a moderately good watercolorist. But I’m not content to be a moderately good poet. That’s a very different thing.

INTERVIEWER: Am I correct that you published your first poem, “The Voice of St. Lucia,” at the precocious age of fourteen? I’ve read that the poem stirred up a considerable local controversy.

I wrote a poem talking about learning about God through nature and not through the church. The poem was Miltonic and posed nature as a way to learn. I sent it to the local papers and it was printed. Of course, to see your work in print for any younger writer is a great kick. And then the paper printed a letter in which a priest replied (in verse!) stating that what I was saying was blasphemous and that the proper place to find God was in church. For a young boy to get that sort of response from a mature older man, a priest who was an Englishman, and to be accused of blasphemy was a shock. What was a more chastising thing was that the response was in verse. The point of course was to show me that he was also capable of writing verse. He did his in couplets and mine was in blank verse. I would imagine if I looked at both now that mine was better.

INTERVIEWER: Most American and English readers think of In a Green Night as your first book. Before you published abroad, however, you had already printed three booklets at your own expense in the West Indies. How did you come to publish the first one, 25 Poems?

I used to write every day in an exercise book, and when I first wrote I wrote with great originality. I just wrote as hard and as well as I felt. I remember the great elation and release I felt, a sort of hooking on to a thing, when I read Auden, Eliot, and everyone. One day I would write like Spender, another day I would write like Dylan Thomas. When I felt I had enough poems that I liked, I wanted to see them in print. We had no publishing house in St. Lucia or in the Caribbean. There was a Faber collection of books that had come out with poets like Eliot and Auden, and I liked the typeface and how the books looked. I thought, I want to have a book like that. So I selected a collection of twenty-five of them and thought, Well, these will look good because they’ll look like they came from abroad; they’ll look like a published book. I went to my mother and said, “I’d like to publish a book of poems, and I think it’s going to cost me two hundred dollars.” She was just a seamstress and a schoolteacher, and I remember her being very upset because she wanted to do it. Somehow she got it—a lot of money for a woman to have found on her salary. She gave it to me, and I sent off to Trinidad and had the book printed. When the books came back I would sell them to friends. I made the money back. In terms of seeing a book in print, the only way I could have done it was to publish it myself.

INTERVIEWER: How does your sense of discovery of new subject matter integrate with the formal elements in your work?

One of the things that people have to look at in West Indian literature is this: that what we were deprived of was also our privilege. There was a great joy in making a world that so far, up to then, had been undefined. And yet the imagination wants its limits and delights in its limits. It finds its freedom in the definition of those limits. In a sense, you want to give more symmetry to lives that have been undefined. My generation of West Indian writers has felt such a powerful elation at having the privilege of writing about places and people for the first time and, simultaneously, having behind them the tradition of knowing how well it can be done—by a Defoe, a Dickens, a Richardson. Our world made us yearn for structure, as opposed to wishing to break away from it, because there was no burden, no excess of literature in our heads. It was all new.

INTERVIEWER: Well, then how do you see yourself in terms of the great tradition of poetry in the English language?

I don’t. I am primarily, absolutely a Caribbean writer. The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination; it is the property of the language itself. I have never felt inhibited in trying to write as well as the greatest English poets. Now that has led to a lot of provincial criticism—the Caribbean critic may say, You are trying to be English, and the English critic may say, Welcome to the club. These are two provincial statements at either end of the spectrum. It’s not a matter of trying to be English. I am obviously a Caribbean poet. I yearn for the company of better Caribbean poets, quite frankly. I feel a little lonely. I don’t see what I thought might have happened—a stronger energy, a stronger discipline, and a stronger drive in Caribbean poetry. That may be because the Caribbean is more musical: every culture has its particular emphasis and obviously the Caribbean’s poetry, talent, and genius is in its music. But then again the modern Caribbean is a very young thing. I consider myself at the beginning, rather than at the end, of a tradition.

INTERVIEWER: Would you say that your relationship to English poetry has changed over the years? As your work has progressed you seem to have increasingly affiliated yourself with a line of New World poets from Whitman through St. John Perse to Aimé Césaire and Pablo Neruda.

Carlos Fuentes talked in a Paris Review interview about the essential Central American experience, which includes the whole basin of the Caribbean—that it is already a place of tremendous fertility. The whole New World experience here is shared by Márquez as it is by Borges, as it is still by American writers. In fact, too many American poets don’t take on the scale of America. Not because we should write epics but because it seems to be our place to try to understand. In places that are yet undefined the energy comes with the knowledge that this has not yet been described, this has not yet been painted. This means that I’m standing here like a pioneer. I’m the first person to look at this mountain and try to write about it. I’m the first person to see this lagoon, this piece of land. Here I am with this enormous privilege of just being someone who can take up a brush. My generation of West Indian writers, following after C. L. R. James, all felt the thrill of the absolute sense of discovery. That energy is concomitant with being where we are; it’s part of the whole idea of America. And by America, I mean from Alaska right down to Curaçao.

INTERVIEWER: How do you respond to V. S. Naipaul’s repeated assertion—borrowed from Trollope—that “nothing was created in the British West Indies”?

Perhaps it should read that “Nothing was created by the British in the West Indies.” Maybe that’s the answer. The departure of the British required and still requires a great deal of endeavor, of repairing the psychological damage done by their laziness and by their indifference. The desolation of poverty that exists in the Caribbean can be very depressing. The only way that one can look at it and draw anything of value from it is to have a fantastic depth of strength and belief, not in the past but in the immediate future. And I think that whenever I come back here, however desolate and however despairing I see the conditions around me to be, I know that I have to draw on terrible reserves of conviction. To abandon that conviction is to betray your origins; it’s to feel superior to your family, to your past. And I’m not capable of that.

INTERVIEWER: Why is the figure of Robinson Crusoe so important to you?

There was a time, both in terms of my own life and in terms of the society, when I had an image of the West Indian artist as someone who was in a shipwrecked position. He was someone who would have to build (again) from the concept of being wrecked on these islands. I wrote a poem called “The Castaway.” I told my wife I was going to stay by myself for a weekend somewhere down in Trinidad. My wife agreed. I stayed in a beach house by myself and I wrote the poem there. I’m not saying that’s the origin of my Crusoe idea. But it’s possible. The beaches around here are generally very empty—just you, the sea, and the vegetation around you, and you’re very much by yourself. The poems I have written around the Crusoe theme vary. One of the more positive aspects of the Crusoe idea is that in a sense every race that has come to the Caribbean has been brought here under situations of servitude or rejection, and that is the metaphor of the shipwreck, I think. Then you look around you and you have to make your own tools. Whether that tool is a pen or a hammer, you are building in a situation that’s Adamic; you are rebuilding not only from necessity but also with some idea that you will be here for a long time and with a sense of proprietorship as well. Very broadly that is what has interested me in it. There are other ironies, like the position of Friday as the one who is being civilized. Actually, the reverse happens. People who come out to the Caribbean from the cities and the continents go through a process of being recultured. What they encounter here, if they surrender to their seeing, has a lot to teach them, first of all the proven adaptability of races living next to each other, particularly in places like Trinidad and Jamaica. And then also in the erasure of the idea of history. To me there are always images of erasure in the Caribbean—in the surf that continually wipes the sand clean, in the fact that those huge clouds change so quickly. There is a continual sense of motion in the Caribbean—caused by the sea and the feeling that one is almost traveling through water and not stationary. The size of time is larger—a very different thing in the islands than in the cities. We don’t live so much by the clock. If you have to be in a place where you create your own time, what you learn, I think, is a patience, a tolerance, how to make an artisan of yourself rather than being an artist.

INTERVIEWER: What constitutes an artistic generation in the Caribbean?

An artistic generation in this part of the world is about five years. Five years of endurance. After that, I think people give up. I see five years of humanity and boredom and futility. I keep looking at younger writers, and I begin to see the same kind of despair forming and the same wish to say the hell with it, I’m getting out of here. There’s also a problem with government support. We have come to a kind of mechanistic thinking that says, a government concerns itself with housing, food, and whatever. There will always be priorities in terms of sewage and electricity. If only a government could form the idea that any sensible human being wants not only to have running water, but a book in hand and a picture on the wall. That is the kind of government I had envisaged in the Caribbean when I was eighteen or nineteen. At fifty-five, I have only seen an increase in venality, an increase in selfishness, and worse than that, a shallow kind of service paid to the arts. I’m very bitter about the philistinism of the Caribbean. It is tough to see a people who have only one strength and that is their culture. Trinidad is perhaps the most concentrated example of a culture that has produced so many thousands and thousands of artisans at Carnival. Now Carnival is supported by the government, but that’s a seasonal kind of thinking. I’m talking about something more endemic, more rooted, more organic to the idea of the Caribbean. Because we have been colonies, we have inherited everything, and the very thing we used to think was imperial has been repeated by our own stubbornness, stupidity, and blindness.

INTERVIEWER: Your prologue to Dream on Monkey Mountain also blasts the crass, state-sponsored commercialization of folk culture. One of your subjects in both poetry and essays has been how negatively tourism has affected the West Indies. Would you discuss that?

Once I saw tourism as a terrible danger to a culture. Now I don’t, maybe because I come down here so often that perhaps literally I’m a tourist myself coming from America. But a culture is only in danger if it allows itself to be. Everybody has a right to come down in the winter and enjoy the sun. Nobody has a right to abuse anybody, and so I don’t think that if I’m an American anybody should tell me, Please don’t come here because this beach is ours, or whatever. During the period I’m talking about, certainly, servility was a part of the whole deal—the waiters had to smile, and we had to do this and so forth. In tourism, it was just an extension really of master/servant. I don’t think it’s so anymore. Here we have a generation that has strengthened itself beyond that. As a matter of fact, it can go beyond a balance and there’s sullenness and a hostility toward people who are your guests. It can swing too far as well. But again, it’s not enough to put on steel bands and to have people in the hotels entertaining and maybe to have a little show somewhere to keep them what they think is light-minded and happy and indifferent and so on. If that’s the opinion that the government or culture has of itself, then it deserves to be insulted. But if it were doing something more rooted in terms of the arts, in terms of its writers, its painters, and its performers, and if there were more pride in that and not the kind of thing you see of guys walking around town totally bored and hoping that something can happen . . . I’m not one to say that you can’t do things for yourself because certainly having spent all my life in the Caribbean theater and certainly seventeen very exacting years in the workshop, I do say, yes—get up and do it yourself and stop depending on the government. But there is a point where you have to turn to the state and say, Look man, this is ridiculous. I pay my taxes. I’m a citizen. I don’t have a museum. I don’t have a good library. I don’t have a place where I can perform. I don’t have a place where I can dance. That’s criminal. It’s a carryover of the same thing I said about the West Indies being seized and atrophied by a petty-bourgeois mentality from the metropolis that has been adopted by the Creole idea of life, which is simply to have a damn good time and that’s it, basically. I mean that’s the worst aspect of West Indian life: Have a good time, period.

What do you have against folklorists and anthropologists? Some people think of them as an intellectually respectable lot.

I don’t trust them. They either embarrass or elevate too much. They can do a good service if they are reticent and keep out of the way. But when they begin to tell people who they are and what they are, they are terrifying. I’ve gone to seminars in which people in the audience who are the people the folklorists are talking about, are totally baffled by their theories.

INTERVIEWER: One of your most well-known early poems, “A Far Cry from Africa,” ends with the question, “How can I turn from Africa and live?” However, by 1970 you could write that “the African revival is escape to another dignity,” and that “once we have lost our wish to be white, we develop a longing to become black, and those two may be different, but are still careers.” You also assert that the claim to be African is not an inheritance but a bequest, “a bill for the condition of our arrival as slaves.” These are controversial statements. What is your current sense of the West Indian writer’s relationship to Africa?

There is a duty in every son to become his own man. The son severs himself from the father. The Caribbean very often refuses to cut that umbilical cord to confront its own stature. So a lot of people exploit an idea of Africa out of both the wrong kind of pride and the wrong kind of heroic idealism. At great cost and a lot of criticism, what I used to try to point out was that there is a great danger in historical sentimentality. We are most prone to this because of suffering, of slavery. There’s a sense of skipping the part about slavery, and going straight back to a kind of Eden-like grandeur, hunting lions, that sort of thing. Whereas what I’m saying is to take in the fact of slavery, if you’re capable of it, without bitterness, because bitterness is going to lead to the fatality of thinking in terms of revenge. A lot of the apathy in the Caribbean is based on this historical sullenness. It is based on the feeling of “Look what you did to me.” Well, “Look what you did to me,” is juvenile, right? And also, “Look what I’m going to do to you,” is wrong. Think about illegitimacy in the Caribbean! Few people can claim to find their ancestry in the linear way. The whole situation in the Caribbean is an illegitimate situation. If we admit that from the beginning that there is no shame in that historical bastardy, then we can be men. But if we continue to sulk and say, Look at what the slave-owner did, and so forth, we will never mature. While we sit moping or writing morose poems and novels that glorify a nonexistent past, then time passes us by. We continue in one mood, which is in too much of Caribbean writing: that sort of chafing and rubbing of an old sore. It is not because one wishes to forget; on the contrary, you accept it as much as anybody accepts a wound as being a part of his body. But this doesn’t mean that you nurse it all your life.

INTERVIEWER: What are your feelings about Boston, which you have called the “city of my exile”?

I’ve always told myself that I’ve got to stop using the word exile. Real exile means a complete loss of the home. Joseph Brodsky is an exile; I’m not really an exile. I have access to my home. Given enough stress and longing I can always get enough money to get back home and refresh myself with the sea, the sky, whatever. I was very hostile about Boston in the beginning, perhaps because I love New York. In jokes, I’ve always said that Boston should be the capital of Canada. But it’s a city that grows on you gradually. And where I live is very comfortable. It’s close to the university. I work well there, and I very much enjoy teaching. I don’t think of myself as having two homes; I have one home, but two places.

INTERVIEWER: Robert Lowell had a powerful influence on you. I’m thinking of your memorial poem “RTSL” as well as the poem in Midsummer where you assert that “Cal’s bulk haunts my classes.” Would you discuss your relationship to Lowell?

Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick were on a tour going to Brazil and they stopped off in Trinidad. I remember meeting them at Queen’s Park Hotel and being so flustered that I called Elizabeth Hardwick, Edna St. Vincent Millay. She said, “I’m not that old yet.” I was just flabbergasted. And then we became very friendly. My wife Margaret and I took them up to the beach. Their daughter, Harriet, was there. I remember being up at this beach house with Lowell. His daughter and his wife, I think, must have gone to bed. We had gas lanterns. Imitations had just come out and I remember that he showed me his imitations of Hugo and Rilke and asked me what I thought about them. I asked him if two of the stanzas were from Rilke, and he said, “No, these are mine.” It was a very flattering and warm feeling to have this fine man with this great reputation really asking me what I thought. He did that with a lot of people, very honestly, humbly, and directly. I cherish that memory a lot. When we went back to New York, Cal and Lizzie had a big party for us with a lot of people there, and we became very close. Cal was a big man in bulk but an extremely gentle, poignant person, and very funny. I don’t think any of the biographies have caught the sort of gentle, amused, benign beauty of him when he was calm. He kept a picture of Peter, my son, and Harriet for a long time in his wallet, and he’d take it out and show it to me. He was sweetly impulsive. Once I went to visit him and he said, “Let’s call up Allen Ginsberg and ask him to come over.” That’s so cherishable that it’s a very hard thing for me to think of him as not being around. In a way, I can’t separate my affection for Lowell from his influence on me. I think of his character and gentleness, the immediacy that was part of knowing him. I loved his openness to receive influences. He was not a poet who said, I’m an American poet, I’m going to be peculiar, and I’m going to have my own voice which is going to be different from anybody’s voice. He was a poet who said, I’m going to take in everything. He had a kind of multifaceted imagination; he was not embarrassed to admit that he was influenced even in his middle age by William Carlos Williams, or by François Villon, or by Boris Pasternak, all at the same time. That was wonderful.

INTERVIEWER: What about specific poetic influence?

One of the things he said to me was, “You must put more of yourself in your poems.” Also he suggested that I drop the capital letters at the top of the line, use the lowercase. I did it and felt very refreshed; it made me relax. It was a simple suggestion, but it’s one of those things that a great poet can tell you that can be phenomenal—a little opening. The influence of Lowell on everyone, I think, is in his brutal honesty, his trying to get into the poetry a fictional power that wasn’t there before, as if your life was a section of a novel—not because you are the hero, but because some of the things that were not in poems, some of the very ordinary banal details, can be illumined. Lowell emphasized the banality. In a sense to keep the banality banal and still make it poetic is a great achievement. I think that’s one of the greatest things that he did in terms of his directness, his confrontation of ordinariness.

INTERVIEWER: Would you tell the story of your first poetry reading in the States? It must have been rewarding to hear Lowell’s extravagant introduction.

Well, I didn’t know what he said because I was in back of the curtain, I think it was at the Guggenheim. I was staying at the Chelsea Hotel, and that day I felt I needed a haircut, so, foolishly, I went around the corner and sat down. The barber took the electric razor and gave me one of the wildest haircuts I think I’ve ever had. It infuriated me, but you can’t put your hair back on. I even thought of wearing a hat. But I went on anyway; my head looked like hell. I had gotten some distance into the reading—I was reading “A Far Cry from Africa”—when suddenly there was the sound of applause from the auditorium. Now I had never heard applause at a poetry reading before. I don’t think I’d ever given a formal poetry reading, and I thought for some reason that the applause was saying it was time to stop, that they thought it was over. So I walked off the stage. I felt in a state of shock. I actually walked off feeling the clapping was their way of saying, Well, thank you, it’s been nice. Someone in charge asked me to go back and finish the reading, but I said no. I must have sounded extremely arrogant, but I felt that if I went back out there it would have been conceited. I went back to Trinidad. Since I hadn’t heard Lowell’s introduction, I asked someone for it at the Federal Building, which had archives of radio tapes from the Voice of America. I said I would like to hear the Lowell tape, and the guy said, “I think we erased that.” It was only years later that I really heard what Cal said, and it was very flattering.

INTERVIEWER: How did you become friends with Joseph Brodsky?

Well, ironically enough, I met Brodsky at Lowell’s funeral. Roger Straus, Susan Sontag, and I went up to Boston for the funeral. We waited somewhere for Joseph, probably at the airport, but for some reason he was delayed. At the service I was in this pew when a man sat down next to me. I didn’t know him. When I stood up as the service was being said, I looked at him and I thought, if this man is not going to cry then I’m not going to cry, either. I kept stealing glances at him to see if anything was happening, but he was very stern looking. That helped me to contain my own tears. Of course it was Brodsky. Later, we met. We went to Elizabeth Bishop’s house, and I got to know him a little better. The affection that developed after that was very quick and, I think, permanent—to be specific about it is hard. I admire Joseph for his industry, his valor, and his intelligence. He’s a terrific example of someone who is a complete poet, who doesn’t treat poetry as anything else but a very hard job that he does as well as he can. Lowell worked very hard too, but you feel in Joseph that that is all he lives for. In a sense that’s all any of us lives for or can hope to live for. Joseph’s industry is an example that I cherish a great deal.

INTERVIEWER: When did you first become friends with Seamus Heaney?

There was a review by A. Alvarez of Seamus’s book, a very upsetting review—to put it mildly—in which he was describing Heaney as a sort of blue-eyed boy. English literature always has a sort of blue-eyed boy. I got very angry over the review and sent Seamus a note via my editor with a little obscenity in it. Just for some encouragement. Later, in New York we had a drink at someone’s house. From then on, the friendship has developed. I see him a lot when he is in Boston at Harvard. I just feel very lucky to have friends like Joseph and Seamus. The three of us are outside of the American experience. Seamus is Irish, Joseph is Russian, I’m West Indian. We don’t get embroiled in the controversies about who’s a soft poet, who’s a hard poet, who’s a free-verse poet, who’s not a poet, and all of that. It’s good to be on the rim of that quarreling. We’re on the perimeter of the American literary scene. We can float out here happily not really committed to any kind of particular school or body of enthusiasm or criticism.

Over the years your style seems to have gotten increasingly plainer and more direct, less gnarled, more casual, somehow both quieter and fiercer at the same time. Is that an accurate assessment of the poetic style of your middle age? I can’t imagine a book like Midsummer from the young Derek Walcott.

These are just excerpts from a long interview that Derek gave to Edward Hirsch. 

Kudos to Edward Hirsch for having done a brilliant one at that! For more on the interview, you may want to check it out at the Paris Review HERE.

Images of Derek Walcott, courtesy -

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