Derek Walcott Response on Custos

The poem “The Star-Apple Kingdom” starts with this pastoral painting. How do you get from that to the Caribbean? From paint to words. Is that a fair transition? Are you asking too much of your readers that way? First of all tell me about custos.

Derek Walcott replied saying “custos is an example of the things that happen in language in the Caribbean. A custos is a custodian. A Latin custos—custodoes meaning a god. It’s an old Jamaican word which may still be used for someone in charge of a parish, appointed by the government, I think. The custos of a parish is the guard. Continue reading

VERSES Occasioned by a Young Lady’s asking the Author, What was a Cure for Love?

From me, my Dear, O seek not to receive
What e’en deep-read Experience cannot give.
We may, indeed, from the Physician’s skill
Some Med’cine find to cure the body’s ill.
But who e’er found the physic for the soul,
Or made th’ affections bend to his controul?
When thro’ the blaze of passion objects show
How dark ‘s the shade! how bright the colours glow!
All the rous’d soul with transport’s overcome,
And the mind’s surly Monitor is dumb. Continue reading

Dithyrambic on Wine | Godfrey Thomas

Godfrey’s The Court of Fancy (1762) was the first, and most pronounced, American use of Chaucerian work (in this case Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Parlement of Foules; circa 1378–1381) that broke free of traditional eighteenth-century verse. Included in Juvenile Poems on Various Subjects, it emphasized collegiality, which was a testament to Godfrey’s appreciation of the circle of artists he had befriended in Philadelphia. This theme is evident in his drinking song, “Dithyrambic on Wine”:

Come! Let Mirth our hours employ,
The jolly God inspires;
The rosy juice our bosom fires,
And tunes our souls to joy.

-Godfrey, Thomas (playwright)

Derek Walcott Poetry: A Far Cry from Africa

 A Far Cry From Africa

By Derek Walcott, Nobel Literature Laureate, Saint Lucia, West Indies.

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa, Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
’Waste no compassion on these separate dead!’
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews? Continue reading

Derek Walcott A Poet and a Visionary

He had an early sense of a vocation as a writer. In the poem “Midsummer” (1984),

he wrote:
“Forty years gone, in my island childhood, I felt that
the gift of poetry had made me one of the chosen,
that all experience was kindling to the fire of the Muse.”

– Walcott

At 14, Walcott published his first poem, a Miltonic, religious poem in the newspaper, The Voice of St Lucia. An English Catholic priest condemned the Methodist-inspired poem as blasphemous in a response printed in the newspaper.

By 19, Walcott had self-published his two first collections with the aid of his mother, who paid for the printing: 25 Poems (1948) and Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949). He sold copies to his friends and covered the costs.
He later commented,

“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.”


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