Deus in Machina: poetic technique in Derek Walcott’s Omeros

Andrew Singer in Open Letters Monthly:

Omeros-192x300Much has been written about Derek Walcott’s epic book-length poem, Omeros, since its publication in 1990 — deservedly so — but little has been attempted of direct poetic analysis. Poetry, especially formal verse, spans a territory that borders music on one side and meaning on the other. A masterful poet unfolding verse is keenly attuned to both, exploring and playing on their interrelation in continually surprising ways. Recognizing this interplay between sound and sense is one of the great refined pleasures of reading an accomplished poem. Suffusing every part of Omeros, regardless of action or complexity, philosophical meaning or depth of thought, is its music. To get at this most directly, let us examine a section where nothing special happens, where no particularly overarching complexity of meaning will distract.

Omeros is presented in seven Books, totaling 64 chapters, of three sections each. All but Chapter XXXIII, section 3, are written in hexameters, echoing Homer’s Odyssey, albeit playing with the meter freely. The lines are further grouped in triplet stanzas, acknowledging Dante, albeit without adhering to Dante’s rhyme scheme. Omeros is fully rhymed, although, like the meter, its rhyme scheme is fluid and proceeds from the music, with deeply refined effect. Every line in Omeros has a rhyme somewhere nearby.

More here.