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Begin forwarded message:
--Dear Friends & Colleagues,
As you may have heard or read, we lost another great poetic soul this morning: Derek Walcott, the Nobel Laureate and one of the defining poets of our times.
It's very sad, and I have no words to convey the depth of it. Perhaps some poems? Hmm... OK, why not? Here are two, and a soothing song at the end of it all.
The first poem is by Derek himself, and it's meant to evoke a smile. It amply shows the temporal and commonly human side of the great Derek spirit, and here's the background to the poem: Derek Walcott (St. Lucian) and V.S. Naipaul (originally Trinidadian) had been at each other's throat for quite a while. They were kind of shadow boxing, long before Derek won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992 and V.S. Naipaul followed suit in 2001. Several years ago, V.S. Naipaul wrote something mildly unkind about Derek, and Derek decided to give the expression that we call "poetic justice" a whole new galactic meaning. At the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica in 2008 he read the following poem (but refused to give out the hard copy). I'm still hunting for the full poem. Here it is:
The MongooseBy Derek Walcott
I have been bitten, I must avoid infectionOr else I'll be as dead as Naipaul's fictionRead his last novels, you'll see justwhat I meanA lethargy, approaching the obsceneThe model is more ho-hum than DickensThe essays have more biteThey scatter chickens like critics, buteach stabbing phrase is poisonSince he has made that snaring stylea prisonThe plots are forced, the prosesedate and sillyThe anti-hero is a prick named WillieWho lacks the conflict of a Waugh or LawrenceAnd whines with his creator'sself-abhorrence
So the old mongoose, still making good moneyIs a burnt out comic, predictable, unfunnyThe joy of supplements, his minstrel actDelighting editors endorsing factsOver fiction, tearing colleagues and bettersTo pieces in the name of English lettersThe feathers fly, the snow comes drifting downThe mongoose keeps its class act as a clownIt can do cartwheels of exaggerationMostly it snivels, proud of being AsianOf being attached to nothing, race or nationIt would be just as if a corpse took pride in its decayAfter its gift had died and off the page its biles exude the stenchof envy, "la pourriture" in Frenchcursed its first breath for being Trinidadianthen wrote the same piece for the English GuardianOnce he liked humans, how long ago this wasThe mongoose wrote "A House for Mr Biswas."
Needless to say, Derek was a great human being whose poetic firmament firmly bridged, bonded and illuminated so much of the exclusive cultural and historical spaces we occupy as humans. He's in a good place, I imagine. May his soul rest in perfect peace!
The second poem is kind of a baton-receiver's gift of continued excellence, even as it also embodies an exciting expression of innovative shift. The poet is one of my favorites among today's younger generation of globalizing poets. The poem, recently published in a college literary magazine, amplifies a powerful new voice (the poet) that captures both the visual and visceral connections between our humanity and the natural life forms right around us. It's a captivating dialogue poem that also creatively succeeds in retaining a measure of authorial voice. That's an innovative mix in its class! I'm tempted to go on with more exegesis of this poem, but that will wait till later when I send out my next poetic offerings (sorry you've got to wait for that later). Here's the poem:
A passing by
By Cole Newcomb
I said to him "the man
has no father,
has lost his mother.
A sister, a brother
left him to wander
with dust and grime
built over years of cars
dashing streets in unending
pursuit. Thunderous in aim, the cars,
roaring past. His unmoving walk,
tilting slow in motion, listing
sideways movement, scrapes
the unfeeling concrete."
He said to me, "to rest and end the slowing crawl?
Depart with a whisper still in your lungs?
Or are you not done yet?
In years past, the aching nailed to the sidewalk is like falling leaves,
the scent of piled eucalyptus,
nestled in the crease between the wall and ground."
Trees overhead sway,
as the fog blows in.
He said, "what of you children born and living here?
are you not roaring past?
This is home. The concrete feels everything:
Every forceful crack
that drives the nail in,
pressed to the ground.
You and they are not done yet.
Look: nestled in the corner,
the eucalyptus,breathe deeply."
Now, the song. It's by Miriam Makeba (well known as Mama Africa), and the title of the song is: Nongqongqo (To Those We Love). It's about the great ones who sacrificed everything for a free South Africa. Here's a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3upHN5sqd8
With Peace & Love,
Listserv moderated by Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin
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