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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sea Canes

(Ocean Racer by Christopher Pratt, born in 1935, my favorite
Canadian painter)

In an interview published in The Paris Review, the poet Derek Walcott was asked about an epiphanic experience he described in his book-length autobiographical poem Another Life.

“I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer,” Walcott said. “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.”

Below, Walcott meditates on the friends who are gone.


Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf's drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk

on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the dreaming motion

of owls leaving earth's load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.

The sea canes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger

that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring moonlight, further than despair,
strong as the wind, that through dividing canes

brings those we love before us, as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.

~ Derek Walcott, born in 1930, Caribbean poet, playwright, and watercolorist, and winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature

To listen to the poet's reading of his poem, follow this link (you may have to cut and paste):

1 comment:

The old gentleman... said...

Derek Walcott's epiphany approaches what Jacques Maritain calls "an intuition of being." Poets and children can have such an intuition. Even philosophers, if blest, might experience such a moment. Then, perhaps, they philosophize about it...which is quite another event.