Derek Walcott’s Poetry- Critical Appreciation

by Giz TimesJune 3, 2015

Derek Walcott’s Poetry- Critical Appreciation

Caribbean Literature covers issues like racism, colonization and dislocation. The immigrants who went to Caribbean Islands and the authors who went abroad to study felt dislocated. Language problem has always been there and Creole is the language of underprivileged in West Indies. People earlier merely imitated the Europeans, but later on started having more faith in their own culture. Alienation as a theme is centric to this region’s literature as they have had firsthand experience when it comes to isolation. Derek Walcott believes in his land but denounces the Intellectual Black power ideology and hollow traditional values, just like his cotemporary Edward Braithwaite.

derek walcott

Derek Walcott

  1. Derek Walcott:
  • English language is no body’s special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.
  • What is important is (and I am still working on it) to find a voice that was not inflected by influences.
  • The difficult part is the realization that one is part of the whole idea of colonization.
  1. Carolyn Cooper: A distinctive feature of Carribean literature is its linguistic heteroginity.
  2. Edward Bough: Speaks about “the agony of language” in the Caribbean countries.
  3. VS Naipaul: He finds his people on the bottom rung of the social ladder with a further lack of identity in the raging black issues of the day.
  4. Jean Rhys: In Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys describes the identity crisis of Antoinette (Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre). She is white and hence an outsider in the Caribbean society and even when he reaches England she feels isolated.
  5. Gary Young: As migrants we leave home in search of a future, but we lose the past.
  6. Elaine Savory Fido: Derek Walcott’s treatment of women is full of clichés, stereotypes and negativity.
  7. Jean Jaques Rousseau: Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains. This suggests that the colonized are chained by the colonizers and the colonizers are chained by the people who send them to the “other” world because of which they feel alienated.
  8. Susan Lieberman: Family traditions counter alienation and confusion.



Derek Walcott’s Poetry- Critical Appreciation: A FAR CRY FROM AFRICA (In a Green Night) – 1962

  1. Ngugi wa Thiongo: He is against using English as a language. Language as a means of communication and as a cultural carrier.
  2. Chinua Achebe: He believed that a language cannot distort your culture. He is not against the usage of English.
  3. Homi K. Bhaba: Hybrid Identity. Walcott suffers from this. Biological Plurality.
  4. Raymond Williams: He talks about Isolation and Struggle using African natives as an example from the Heart of Darkness.

Derek Walcott’s Poetry- Critical Appreciation: NAMES (From Sea Grapes) – 1976

  1. William Shakespeare- “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet says that it’s Romeo’s name that prevents her to marry him. The name is thus important because it serves as an identity for us and for others to judge us a particular person, provide us with the benefits or deprive us.
  2. Jaime C. Tung: There is a sense of brokenness in Walcott’s poems like ‘Names’ and ‘Exile’. For example, the narrator searches for the moment when “the mind was halved by the horizon” to recall his memory and future in the poem “Names”. It is inferred from these lines that in order to attain something, something else must be “halved,” or broken in some way.


Derek Walcott’s Poetry- Critical Appreciation: GOATS AND MONKEYS (The Castaway and other poems) – 1965

Iago often refers to Othello as a horse and a beast. Walcott has reworked this. When Othello demands some proof of Desdemona’s adultery, Iago tells him that he will never be able to catch Desdemona and Cassio in bed together, while at the same time describing their coupling in a most lurid and bestial way: “It is impossible you should see this, / Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys.” Also, Desdemona and all women are compared to moon- Desdemona in Othello swears her truth by the moon.

  1. Lisa Jardine: She talks about the way Desdemona was trapped within this masculine world.
  2. Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove: Moon imagery in religion and mythology has to do with women because women have monthly cycle( menstrual cyle) which resembles the moon’s cycle.
  3. DH Lawrence: In his Women in Love Birkin breaks the surface of a pond with stone to destroy the moon’s image. Feminine power of the moon is the object of male aggression.
  4. Ania Loomba: Discusses Gender and Race in Othello.
  5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Iago is a character who is ‘next to devil’.
  6. Edward Said: The Orient and Islam have a kind of extrareal, phenomenologically reduced status that puts them out of reach of everyone except the Western expert. From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the orient could not do was to represent itself.
  7. SYED ANWARUL HUQ: He talks about Desdemona’s handkerchief as a symbol of sexuality and how it gets transformed into bed sheet where she dreams and finally into her shroud when she dies.

Derek Walcott’s Poetry- Critical Appreciation: THE SEA IS HISTORY (The Star-Apple Kingdom) – 1979

  1. Balakin: Using English Tongue doesn’t preclude his moral outrage at the crimes that the empire has committed against his people.
  2. Mircea Eliade: No history is final
  3. Patricia Ismond:
  • Walcott’s larger theme is to refute the conventional valuation of history.
  • The sea as a history conceit.
  1. Marquez: Don’t judge us by your own yardstick.
  2. Colin Kidd: in his book The forging of races reviews a number of theories about the race of Jesus, ranging from a white Aryan Jesus to a black African Jesus, illustrating that there is no general agreement among scholars on the race of Jesus.
  3. Robert Collins: in his Essay on the treatment and management of slaves(1852) talks about how the slaves were poorly fed in the earlier times.
  4. Harriet Jacobs: in her Incidents in the life of a slave girl talks about how they were subjected to physical and mental abuse. She talks about how the new years day was a matter of great distress for the slaves because they were put on auction.
  5. Rustom Barucha: in his essay The Past in the Present talks about how written records allow you to remember your past. But at the same time he argues that if you do not have written records then you have no other choice but to memorize your past. He talks about the authenticity of orality as well as of written records playing with the thought that oral culture of India that relies on folksongs and traditions doesn’t mean that people have no history and memories.
  6. In 1963, the first archeological investigation was done on Dwarka and it revealed many facts. The Marine Archaeology Unit of the National Institute of Oceanography and the Government of Gujarat ultimately inferred that “there was really a city which got submerged in Dwarka in 1500 BC and that the “architectural evidence and antiquities such as a seal and inscriptions go to indicate that it was the city of Mahabharata age.”

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