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Militia

Derek Walcott

17 November 1983
... I heard them marching the leaf-wet roads of my head, the sucked vowels of a syntax trampled to mud, a division of dictions, one troop black, barefooted, the other in redcoats bright as their sovereign’s blood. One fought for a queen, the other was chained in her service, but both, in bitterness, travelled the same road. Our occupation and the Army of Occupation are born enemies, but what mortar can size the broken stones of the barracks of Brimstone Hill to the gaping brick of Belfast? Have we changed sides to the moustached sergeants and the horsy gentry because we serve English, like a two-headed sentry guarding its borders? No language is neutral; the great oak of English is a murmurous cathedral where some took umbrage, some peace, but every shade, all, helped widen its shadow ...

The View

Mark Strand

16 October 1997
... For Derek Walcott This is the place. The chairs are white. The table shines. The person sitting there stares at the waxen glow. The wind moves the air around, repeatedly, As if to clear a space. ‘A space for me,’ he thinks. He’s always been drawn to the weather of leavetaking, Arranging itself so that grief – even the most intimate – Might be read from a distance ...

Fanfares

Ian Sansom

11 December 1997
The Bounty 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 78 pp., £14.99, July 1997, 0 571 19130 4
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... to deflect him from a real, vivid self into a bombastic stance’ (Eavan Boland); ‘I have found Walcott’s extravagance of poetic diction and tendency to verbosity off-putting in the past’ (Peter Porter); ‘I feel that the fuss and the language are not quite justified by the donné’ (Roy Fuller). ...
19 February 1981
The Star-Apple Kingdom 
by Derek Walcott.
Cape, 58 pp., £2.50, March 1980, 0 224 01780 2
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Selected Poems 1961-1978 
by David Holbrook.
Anvil, 143 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 85646 066 4
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Death Valley and Other Poems in America 
by Alan Ross.
London Magazine Editions, 92 pp., £3, June 1980, 0 904388 32 8
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Poems 1955-1980 
by Roy Fisher.
Oxford, 193 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 211935 4
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A.R.T.H.U.R. & M.A.R.T.H.A. 
by Laurence Lerner.
Secker, 69 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 436 24440 3
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... Derek Walcott is now 50 years old, but there is none of the placidity or mellowing of middle age in The Star-Apple Kingdom. If Naipaul is the great novelist of the colonial experience, Walcott has a claim to be considered the great poet of the same experience. They share an acute sense of belonging to more than one culture and hence to none ...

Travellers

John Kerrigan

13 October 1988
Archaic Figure 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 113 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 571 15043 8
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Tourists 
by Grevel Lindop.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 85635 697 2
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Sleeping rough 
by Charles Boyle.
Carcanet, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 85635 731 6
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This Other Life 
by Peter Robinson.
Carcanet, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 85635 737 5
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In the Hot-House 
by Alan Jenkins.
Chatto, 60 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3312 0
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Monterey Cypress 
by Lachlan Mackinnon.
Chatto, 62 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3264 7
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My Darling Camel 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 64 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3286 8
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The Air Mines of Mistila 
by Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 1 85224 055 5
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X/Self 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 131 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 0 19 281987 9
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The Arkansas Testament 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 117 pp., £3.95, March 1988, 9780571149094
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... The Tempest, Blake and, most evidently, Homer in an effort to come to terms with colonialism. And Derek Walcott has for some years now read ‘Iliads and Odysseys’ (Chatwin’s phrase), Clampitt’s ‘middle of the earth ... stepmotherland’, into his chorography of islands: That sail which leans on light, tired of islands, a schooner beating up the ...

Beach Poets

Blake Morrison

16 September 1982
The Fortunate Traveller 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 99 pp., £3.95, March 1982, 0 571 11893 3
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Sun Poem 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 104 pp., £4.95, April 1982, 0 19 211945 1
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Collected Poems 
by Bernard Spencer, edited by Roger Bowen.
Oxford, 149 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 19 211930 3
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Selected Poems 
by Odysseus Elytis.
Anvil, 114 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 85646 076 1
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Poems from Oby 
by George MacBeth.
Secker, 67 pp., £4, March 1982, 9780436270178
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The New Ewart: Poems 1980-1982 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 115 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 09 146980 5
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The Apple-Broadcast 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 133 pp., £3, November 1981, 0 7100 0884 8
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... the literary map: one can expect very little from books with titles like The Fortunate Traveller (Derek Walcott), Sun Poem (Edward Kamau Brathwaite), Aegean Islands (Bernard Spencer) and Sun the First (Odysseus Elytis). Walcott confronts this prejudice in his new volume. Dividing his poems into those set in exile in ...

Boeotian Masters

Donald Davie

5 November 1992
The Paperbark Tree: Selected Prose 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 360 pp., £18.95, September 1992, 0 85635 976 9
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... of the finest poets writing in English, one of a superleague that includes Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky’. This is astonishingly vulgar, and I suppress the author’s name to spare his blushes. But if we reject the notion that poets can be ranked internationally like sprinters or discus-throwers, still we must take note that ...

Where Does He Come From?

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: Placing V.S. Naipaul

1 November 2007
A Writer’s People: Ways of Looking and Feeling 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Picador, 193 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 0 330 48524 1
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... childhood in the late 1940s and is largely concerned to deflate the reputation of the poet Derek Walcott through a clever exercise in condescension and faint praise. Walcott and Naipaul, both Nobel Prize winners, have long been rivals, in both a literary and a political sense, and clearly bitterness ...

Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett

11 July 1991
Omeros 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 325 pp., £17.50, September 1990, 0 571 16070 0
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Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 456 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 7011 3713 4
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The Mail from Anywhere 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, September 1990, 0 19 282779 0
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An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems 
by Matt Simpson.
Bloodaxe, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 1 85224 103 9
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... it will fail to reflect the radically ‘meaningless’, indeterminate nature of our experience. Derek Walcott’s poems, informed and invigorated as many them are by a coherent ideology, don’t conform to this negative aesthetic. Their ideology, however, is a cultural version of it. Until recently, as the Barbadan poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite ...

Tropical Storms

Blake Morrison

6 September 1984
Poems of Science 
edited by John Heath-Stubbs and Phillips Salman.
Penguin, 328 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 0 14 042317 6
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The Kingfisher 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, April 1984, 0 571 13269 3
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The Ice Factory 
by Philip Gross.
Faber, 62 pp., £3.95, June 1984, 0 571 13217 0
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Venus and the Rain 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Oxford, 57 pp., £4.50, June 1984, 0 19 211962 1
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Saying hello at the station 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 48 pp., £2.95, June 1984, 0 7011 2788 0
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Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 159 pp., £2.95, May 1984, 0 904919 80 3
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News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of West Indian-British Poetry 
edited by James Berry.
Chatto, 212 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 9780701127978
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Human Rites: Selected Poems 1970-1982 
by E.A. Markham.
Anvil, 127 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 0 85646 112 1
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Midsummer 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 79 pp., £3.95, July 1984, 0 571 13180 8
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... of the native Barbadian Edward Kamau Brathwaite, not to that of the Trinidadian internationalist Derek Walcott, whose learned allusions – ‘as Ugolino did’, ‘that phrase of Traherne’s’, ‘those sheeted blighters, the Stoics’ – must denote for them a poetry of political compromise and impotence. Self-accusing as he is, ...

Diary

Marina Warner: Why I Quit

10 September 2014
... centre cannot. So universities must go on being places of scholarly investigation.’ When Derek Walcott accepted an invitation to become professor of poetry in 2009, he had a trace memory of this experimental, cosmopolitan place, so surprisingly based in Essex. The political disturbances there in 1968 were notorious, but the novelty of the ...
10 September 1992
Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist 
by Dale Salwak.
Harvester, 302 pp., £24.99, April 1992, 0 7450 1096 2
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London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin 
by Rob Nixon.
Oxford, 229 pp., £27.50, May 1992, 0 19 506717 7
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... way, for there has been a good show of opposition already, especially from blacks and Indians. Derek Walcott has been harsh, and Selwyn Cudjoe, a professor of Black Studies, produced in 1988 a long book called V.S. Nai-paul: A Materialist Reading, which describes Naipaul as ‘an apologist for the imperial world order’, as scornful of Caribbean ...
8 December 1988
To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Penguin, 174 pp., £4.99, September 1988, 9780140585803
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... The crew of distinguished pen-men who helped him in the past – Richard Wilbur, Howard Moss, Derek Walcott and others – has for the most part been laid off. It is understandable why, after all these years, Brodsky should wish to tackle the job single-handed: poets are seldom natural collaborators, and praise for his command of English, impressive ...

Diary

Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party

21 May 2014
... There​ was a primed plastic water pistol, yellow or green, on every table at Derek Walcott’s 84th birthday lunch at the Ladera hotel on the west coast of St Lucia. The Walcott entourage had taken over the restaurant and after we’d dined on saltfish with green bananas, the staff gathered and the guests stood up to sing ‘Happy Birthday ...

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