Derek Walcott's Omeros is a poem in five books, of circular narrative design, titled with the Greek name for Homer, which simultaneously charts two currents of history: the visible history charted in events -- the tribal losses of the American Indian, the tragedy of African enslavement -- and the interior, unwritten epic fashioned from the suffering of the individual in exile.
This magnificent modern epic by poet-playwright Walcott ( The Arkansas Testament ) follows the wanderings of a present-day Odysseus and the inconsolable sufferings of those who are displaced and traveling with trepidation toward their homes. Written in seven circling books and magically fluid tercets, the poem illuminates the classical past and its motifs through an extraordinary cast of contemporary characters from the island of Santa Lucia: humble fishermen Achilles, Philoctete and Hector; a feverishly beautiful house servant, Helen, who incites her own Trojan War; a local seer, Seven Seas; and the narrator himself, who wanders to the States, to Europe and back again although he knows, ``the nearer home, the deeper our fears increase, / that no house might come to meet us on our own shore.'' Singularly ambitious, and as moving as the works of its namesake, Omeros (Greek for ``Homer'') remains accessible despite its complexity and divergent strains, which include the privations of Native Americans, African natives and exiled English colonials.
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This is my favorite Walcott and Walcott is my favorite living writer, which I suppose makes this my favorite living book. This taught me how to read and write. It’s my Divine Comedy and the one book I would want to take with me beyond the grave. How’s that for hyperbolic endorsement?