This series is:
born out of a need to provide a platform for the expression of, and reaction to current events both locally and globally. It is a response to things heard through the proverbial grapevine.
Interested in becoming a contributor to the grapevine series? Contact email@example.com
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
I didn’t want this poem to come
from the torn mouth,
I didn’t want this poem to come
from his salt body,
but I will tell you what he celebrated:
He writes of the wall with spilling coralita
from the rim of the rich garden
and the clean dirt yard
clean as the parlour table
with a yellow tree
an ackee, an almond
in the clear vase of sunlight; Continue reading
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)
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
“The United States has written the white history of the United States. It now needs to write the black, Latino, Indian, Asian and Caribbean history of the United States.”
He had an early sense of a vocation as a writer. In the poem “Midsummer” (1984),
“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.”
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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Broad sun-stoned beaches.
A green river.
scorched yellow palms
from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.
Days I have held,
days I have lost,
days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.