derek walcott: mulling things over, in a louche beachcomber-ish way

Cover190 Poets behave like conquistadors wherever they roam, picking up a new verse form, a lover, some inventive cursing, a disease. Would Byron have been Byron without Italy and Greece? What would Eliot and Pound have become without the hostility of London? Can we imagine Hart Crane without the Caribbean or Elizabeth Bishop without Rio? Derek Walcott has crossed so many borders, his poems read like a much-thumbed Baedeker. To a boy born on St. Lucia, the rhythms and intonations of English verse were a passport to the elsewhere; but they came with a burden — the language of the colonial masters was not the one caught in his ear at home. “How choose,” he wrote, “Between this Africa and the English tongue I love? / Betray them both, or give back what they give?”

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