Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Beauty of the Earth, the Beauty of Life

So I found the link for you last night to the Paris Review Interview with Derek Walcott. Then, natch, when I finished the post I had to read the whole interview. And then I had to go and investigate his autobiographical poetry in Another Life. And then I noticed that the huge new forthcoming gathering of 60 years of his poetry is forthcoming and you can even order that now for Kindle for a very reasonable price. So I did order it. And while I was reading the interview last night I found this quote for tonight, Walcott is talking about Another Life in the longer PR Interview passage below that. Here is a short description about that work that I just lifted from Amazon:

"Another Life", Walcott's masterpiece of autobiography in verse, has of course been widely praised. D.J. McClatchy, for example, writing in "The New Republic", called it "one of the best long autobiographical poems in English, with the narrative sweep, the lavish layering of details, and the mythic resonance of a certain classic". 


There are some things people avoid saying in interviews because they sound pompous or sentimental or too mystical. I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer. I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation. What I described in Another Life—about being on the hill and feeling the sort of dissolution that happened—is a frequent experience in a younger writer. I felt this sweetness of melancholy, of a sense of mortality, or rather of immortality, a sense of gratitude both for what you feel is a gift and for the beauty of the earth, the beauty of life around us. When that’s forceful in a young writer, it can make you cry. It’s just clear tears; it’s not grimacing or being contorted, it’s just a flow that happens. The body feels it is melting into what it has seen. This continues in the poet. It may be repressed in some way, but I think we continue in all our lives to have that sense of melting, of the “I” not being important. That is the ecstasy. It doesn’t happen as much when you get older. There’s that wonderful passage in Traherne where he talks about seeing the children as moving jewels until they learn the dirty devices of the world. It’s not that mystic. Ultimately, it’s what Yeats says: “Such a sweetness flows into the breast that we laugh at everything and everything we look upon is blessed.” That’s always there. It’s a benediction, a transference. It’s gratitude, really. The more of that a poet keeps, the more genuine his nature. I’ve always felt that sense of gratitude. I’ve never felt equal to it in terms of my writing, but I’ve never felt that I was ever less than that. And so in that particular passage in Another Life I was recording a particular moment. Derek Walcott in his Paris Review Interview. Interviewed by Edward Hirsch, Winter, 1986.

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