Derek Walcott (1930-2017) Tribute List

March 18, 2017
Nobel laureate Derek Walcott died on March 17, 2017. Born on St. Lucia to two schoolteachers, he grew up realizing that "if you learned poetry, you shouted it out." Read this list aloud to hear his lyrical rhythms of the sea of life.
for what else is there
but books, books and the sea,
verandahs and the pages of the sea,
to write of the wind and the memory
of wind-whipped hair
in the sun, the colour of fire?
—from "Another Life"
Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that grey vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.
—from "The Sea Is History"
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
—from "A City's Death by Fire"
Yet others who now watch my progress outward,
On a sea which is crueller than any word
Of love, may see in me the calm my passage makes,
Braving new water in an antique hoax
—from "The Harbour"
That Albion too was once
A colony like ours, "part of the continent, piece of the main,"
Nook-shotten, rook o'erblown, deranged
By foaming channels and the vain expense
Of bitter faction.
—from "Ruins of a Great House"
This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility
will never finish and has been the same
for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore
now wriggling on his sandals to walk home
—from "Sea Grapes"
One morning the Caribbean was cut up
by seven prime ministers who bought the sea in bolts—
one thousand miles of aquamarine with lace trimmings,
one million yards of lime-colored silk,
one mile of violet, leagues of cerulean satin—
who sold it at a markup to the conglomerates
—from "The Star-Apple Kingdom"
From frozen Neva to the Hudson pours,
under the airport domes, the echoing stations,
the tributary of emigrants whom exile
has made as classless as the common cold,
citizens of a language that is now yours
—from "Forest of Europe"
and O was the conch-shell's invocation, mer was
both mother and sea in our Antillean patois,
os, a grey bone, and the white surf as it crashes
—from Book One of "Omeros"
our only inheritance that elemental noise
of the windward, unbroken breakers, Ithaca's
or Africa's, all joining the ocean's voice,
because this is the Atlantic now, this great design
of the triangular trade.
—from Book Two of "Omeros"
Everything was forgotten. You also. I do not know.
The deaf sea has changed around every name that you gave
us; trees, men, we yearn for a sound that is missing.
—from Book Three of "Omeros"
The sea-swift vanishes in rain,
and yet in its travelling all that the sea-swift does
it does in a circular pattern.
—from Book Four of "Omeros"
when the arc of an empire was
flung over both colonies, wider than the seine
a fisherman hurls over a bay at sunrise,
but all colonies inherit their empire's sin,
and these, who broke free of the net, enmeshed a race.
—from Book Five of "Omeros"
he scooped the bucket
and emptied the bilge with its leaves of manchineel,
thinking of the stitched, sutured wound that Philoctete
was given by the sea, but how the sea could heal
the wound also.
—from Book Six of "Omeros"
let the deep hymn
of the Caribbean continue my epilogue
—from Book Seven of "Omeros"

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