As his title suggests, Derek Walcott's new poems--while making beautiful use of Caribbean imagery--are concerned with themes of isolation and the achievement of identity through loneliness. When it was published in England in 1969, The Gulf was awarded the Cholmondeley prize for poetry. As the London Times wrote, "His new collection is as noble and stern and grand as Milton...Walcott writes with a tropical glory of images; handles his huge pyrotechnic vocabulary with iron-discipline , verve and nerve...His glittering intelligence and luxurious command of sensation fuse in a mastery of images which burst in the brain like balls of phosphorescent fire."
The subject of the title poem is the alienation and isolation of an America
where filling-station signs
proclaim the Gulf, an air, heavy
sickens the state, from Newark
to New Orleans.
The central figure in the Caribbean poems is a Robinson Crusoe-like castaway, who "learns again the self-creating peace of islands."