Spring 2001 • Vol. XXIII No. 2 Cultures of Creativity: The Centennial Celebration of the Nobel PrizesApril 1, 2001 |

Walcott, Poet and Painter

I am lucky enough to have on my wall a painting by Derek Walcott, a watercolour about thirteen by fifteen inches in landscape format, dated 1988. People read the painting in interestingly different ways. Some immediately recognise the subject matter, but others at first see indeterminate shapes and colours that resolve into an identifiable subject only after an interval of time. In what follows I use these reactions to a painting as a way into what I take to be a defining characteristic of Walcott's poetry. The painting offers the pleasure of balancing between the two reactions described, never settling down as one or the other. There are several levels at which this goes on. The subject is, in fact, nothing much: some bits of wood, possibly tree roots, tangled in weed, jetsam on a beach, but it affords the pleasure of recognition, the mimesis of reality traditional to Western art since the Renaissance. This carries with it the additional pleasure for cognoscenti at the painter's sk

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