Saturday, January 11, 2003

On Thursday night Derek Walcott gave the John Hersey Memorial Address at the Key West Literary Seminar (an annual literary festival; this year the theme is "The Beautiful Changes: Poetry 2003"); reports today on the evening's events:

The Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott stood alone on the stage at the San Carlos on Thursday night in a bright pool of light in front of a wine-red curtain, and read sections of a new, as yet unpublished poem that touched on death, desire, and the ways in which the peoples of the Caribbean — and any nation — can be both liberated and oppressed by European culture....

Walcott's poem took the audience on a journey from the icy mountains of Switzerland to the warm waters of the Caribbean.... Between reading sections of the poem, he spoke not only of a colonisation of the planet by powerful European nations, but also the colonisation of the mind and the soul by European culture. In the face of such dangers, poetry provides people with a navigational tool, a way out. Liberation is possible when one honestly examines and expresses one's conflicts, thoughts, and emotions. As Walcott wrote in a poem in his book Sea Grapes, "Now, I require nothing from poetry but true feeling."

(Yesterday I emailed one of the seminar organisers to ask whether Walcott's text would be available online; it won't, but in about a month it will be possible to buy a recording of the event on CD, via the seminar website.)

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