The Voice of Derek Walcott

In The New York Times, William Logan reviews the Selected Poems of Derek Walcott, as Morgan posts below. Walcott’s is my favorite reading voice in the English language, one that you can hear at the Lannan Foundation’s audio archives, including a reading of “The Schooner Flight”.

Christ have mercy on all sleeping things!

From that dog rotting down Wrightson Road

to when I was a dog on these streets;

if loving these islands must be my load,

out of corruption my soul takes wings,

But they had started to poison my soul

with their big house, big car, big-time bohbohl,

coolie, nigger, Syrian, and French Creole,

so I leave it for them and their carnival —

I taking a sea-bath, I gone down the road.

I know these islands from Monos to Nassau,

a rusty head sailor with sea-green eyes

that they nickname Shabine, the patois for

any red nigger, and I, Shabine, saw

when these slums of empire was paradise.

I’m just a red nigger who love the sea,

I had a sound colonial education,

I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,

and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation.