Drawing from every stage of his career, Derek Walcott's Selected Poems brings together famous pieces from his early volumes, including "A Far Cry from Africa" and "A City's Death by Fire," with passages from the celebrated Omeros and selections from his latest major works, which extend his contributions to reenergizing the contemporary long poem. Here we find all of Walcott's essential themes, from grappling with the Caribbean's colonial legacy to his conflicted love of home and of Western literary tradition; from the wisdom-making pain of time and mortality to the strange wonder of love, the natural world, and what it means to be human. We see his lifelong labor at poetic crafts, his broadening of the possibilities of rhyme and meter, stanza forms, language, and metaphor. Edited and with an introduction by the Jamaican poet and critic Edward Baugh, this volume is a perfect representation of Walcott's breadth of work, spanning almost half a century.
This career-spannning retrospective, culled from nearly 50 years of work, will go a long way toward reminding readers of the breadth and depth of Nobel laureate Walcott's achievement. Though he is perhaps best known for his modern epic, Omeros, which tells a Homeric tale set in St. Lucia, Walcott is a fine lyric poet as well, writing in traditional forms and meters as well as in powerful free verse. Alongside the epic tone that he brought into modern verse "I sing of Achille, Afolabe's son,/ who never ascended in an elevator" is lustful writing about a woman humming Bob Marley on a bus, a casual description of being mugged in Greenwich Village or a painter's-eye view of a fish. The political Walcott is also here; observing a crowd listening to a politician, he writes, "Who will name this silence/ respect? Those forced, hoarse hosannas/ awe?" The lyric Walcott is well represented, but the long poems which are necessarily excerpted prove more problematic. At best, the editor can hope that readers, hooked by one of these narrative poems, will be compelled to seek out the complete version. Nonetheless, this book represents a milestone in the career of a major writer.