Gabrielle Bellot at Literary Hub:
“The English language is nobody’s special property,” Derek Walcott said in an interviewwith The Paris Review in 1985. “It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself. I have never felt inhibited in trying to write as well as the greatest English poets.” In an earlier famous essay on the theater and the Caribbean, “What the Twilight Says,” Walcott had expanded upon this idea of inhibition, an idea those of us who grew up amidst the chiaroscuro contradictions of colonialism know well, even when we do not have the language for it.
“Colonials,” he wrote after contrasting the immense artificial lights of big cities to the dimness and rust and rot of our own towns, “we began with this malarial enervation: that nothing could ever be built among these rotting shacks, barefooted backyards and moulting shingles; that being poor, we already had the theater of our lives. In that simple schizophrenic boyhood one could lead two lives: the interior life of poetry, and the outward life of action and dialect.” The twilight says much about our islands: it is beautiful yet forgettable, a transition between day and night, a space not quite one thing or the other, like the sea’s phosphorescence. The twilight is a sublime contradiction, which means it is closest to describing reality—for Caribbean and cosmos alike, to be sure, but certainly for Caribbean.