This discourse on the poetics of Derek Walcott offers a comprehensive study and seeks to settle the burning question among western critics as to whether the Nobel Laureate is indeed the muse of Caribbean civilization or just simply a schizophrenic,contradicting himself at every turn.
An icon of the North American and Caribbean ''haute bourgeoisie'',Walcott is a celebrated avatar of the literary scene.Born in St Lucia and educated at University College ,Mona,Jamaica,and having taught at Columbia, Harvard and Boston Universities,the poet looms larger than life as his mythical image keeps growing.
Walcott is writing in the vein of the Homeric and Dantesque poets,and indeed a proper discourse on the St Lucian's work can be reasonably attempted against the backdrop of an ''eclaircisement'' of the old oeuvre of these two great masterpieces.Additionally,utmost consideration must be given to the Aristotelian paradigm and the effectual part it plays in the Walcottian poetics-a poetics which incidentally,has undergone continual metamorphosis.
In the first chapter of her seminal work''Abandoning Dead Metaphors'',Dr Patricia Ismond traces the evolution of the Walcottian canon from the juvenilia[25 Poems,1948],to ''The Star Apple Kingdom'', and ''The Fortunate Traveller'',which she labels''a transitional work of the change to dual residency''.''Another Life'', which is autobiographical, speaks to a formative stage of the poet's work and is marked by his veritable struggle with syntactic formations and constructions that bear the unmistakable mark of rough yet emerging genius;
Verandahs where the pages of the sea
are a book left open by an absent master
in the middle of another life-
I begin here again,
begin until the ocean's
a shut book,and like a bulb
the white moon's filaments wane[c.p., 145].
Walcott clearly understands what Sartre says in ''What is Literature'',that ''the poet's job is always to create the myth of man''.Therefore,the poet's mythopoesis transports him beyond society itself to a mythological realm which only partially reflects or resembles the same society that he is writing about,and it is here that the poet feels more comfortable and powerful,even fulfilled.
What I have assiduously searched for is a point of entry into the Walcott canon which could also serve as a point of reference for this ratiocination.OMEROS provided such a point,for it became the capping stone of his pyramid.This epic phantasmogoria is remarkably a ''tour de force'',a journey through a labyrinth of variegated images,and can be digested as what essentially constitutes excellent craft-what Aristotle calls ''tekhne'' in the Poetics[ix]
I have made an attempt to differentiate three distinct categories of metaphors because we are dealing here with different and varied images.These are ;traditionalist metaphors,iconoclastic metaphors and iconogenetic metaphors.This simple classification will make ,no doubt,for easy reference during this thesis.
We turn once again to Dr. Ismond's book''Abandoning Dead Metaphors'' where she makes a distinction between the Old World tradition of metaphors and those from the New World;-
The engagement with the colonizer's tradition is,effectively,
a dialectical one,and it subserves the purpose of exploring and
defining his native world.Of equal importance is the fact that this
interfacing of older tradition and native world is engaged through
metaphor; a dialectical,subsersive argument with the Old World
European tradition of metaphors;and the generation of fresh ones
from his new World setting.
This Old World/New World dichotomy of metaphorical use is one of the chief concerns of Walcott,the poet.It is also an opportunistic window,for the poet finds himself at the veritable crosswords in the changeover from colonialism to a post colonial society of the early 1960's.This becomes new and fertile ground for the ''Adamic'' renaming of metaphors.For Walcott,then,the Old World or traditionalist metaphor,has of necessity,to give way to the iconogenetic and iconoclastic metaphors.
Even though a thin line might separate these two types of metaphors,these are two distinct but sometimes simultaneous movements.An image forming[iconogenetic] metaphor can act by itself,in that it forms new images acting as its own agency.
Whereas the image breaking metaphor[iconoclastic] actually attacks old, established images,tearing them down in the process,its simultaneous action is to formulate new images,thus fulfilling the second stage-i.e;its iconogenetic function.
This is analogous to an incoming wave which firstly,breaks the rocks, then re-shapes them into new forms[images ]over a prolonged period of time.
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