NPR logo

A Reading Of Derek Walcott's 'Love After Love'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520708160/520708161" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Reading Of Derek Walcott's 'Love After Love'

Books

A Reading Of Derek Walcott's 'Love After Love'

A Reading Of Derek Walcott's 'Love After Love'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520708160/520708161" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Poet Derek Walcott died this past week. Actor Tom Hiddleston reads his poem, "Love After Love."

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The poet Derek Walcott died on Friday at the age of 87. He is regarded as one of the greatest poets in the English language. In 1992, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Walcott also wrote plays. And he was a painter. He died at his home on the island of St. Lucia, a place that figured prominently in his work. It's where he published his first poem in a local newspaper at the tender age of 14. We end this hour with one of Walcott's poems, "Love After Love," as read by actor Tom Hiddleston.

(SOUNDBITE OF POEM, "LOVE AFTER LOVE")

TOM HIDDLESTON: (Reading) The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror. And each will smile at the other's welcome, and say sit here, eat. You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes. Peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.

(SOUNDBITE OF GEORGE WINSTON'S "CAROUSEL 2")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Derek Walcott's poem "Love After Love" read by Tom Hiddleston. Mr. Walcott died on Friday at the age of 87. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Derek Walcott, Who Wrote Of Caribbean Beauty And Bondage, Dies At 87

Derek Walcott, Who Wrote Of Caribbean Beauty And Bondage, Dies At 87

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/511608932/520576940" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Poet and playwright Derek Walcott published his first poem at the age of 14. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Brooks Kraft/Sygma via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Brooks Kraft/Sygma via Getty Images

Poet and playwright Derek Walcott published his first poem at the age of 14. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.

Brooks Kraft/Sygma via Getty Images

Derek Walcott's work explored the beauty of his Caribbean homeland and its brutal colonial history. The prolific, Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright died Friday at his home in St. Lucia. He was 87.

Walcott wrote dozens of books of poetry and plays, among them his epic poem Omeros and his Obie-winning drama, Dream on Monkey Mountain.

For most of his life, Walcott taught poetry at universities in the United States, England and Canada — but his work never strayed far from St. Lucia, the island in the West Indies where he was born.

In 1984, when he was teaching at Boston University, Walcott said that a book-length poem like Midsummer was a natural extension of the language all around him.

"You would get some fantastic syntactical phenomena," he said in an interview, "You would hear people talking in Barbados in the exact melody as a minor character in Shakespeare. Because here you have a thing that was not immured and preserved and mummified, but a voluble language, very active, very swift, very sharp. And that is going on still in all the languages of the Caribbean. So that you didn't make yourself a poet — you entered a situation in which there was poetry."

Walcott's father was a poet and a painter. He died when Derek was an infant. His mother was a school teacher who recited Shakespeare to him. He borrowed $200 to publish his first book of poetry when he was 19 and sold it on street corners. Then he attended the University College of the West Indies on a scholarship.

"When I went to college — when I read Shakespeare, or Dickens, or Scott I just felt that as a citizen of England, a British citizen, this was as much my heritage as any schoolboy's," he said. "That is one of the things the Empire taught, that apart from citizenship, the synonymous inheritance of the citizenship was the literature."

David Biespiel, a literary critic and author of a book on poetry called A Long High Whistle, says Walcott represented "an elegant West Indies murmur against history's violent colonial narrative of bondage."

"His poems expose the discrepancy between blooming flowers and sparkling waters with these island economies built on the history of sugar plantations and slavery and forced labor," Biespiel says. "It's kind of grandeur mixed in with imprisonment."

In all of his work, Walcott fused his classical education with the language and history of the Caribbean. The result, Biespiel says, was poetry of the highest order. "I think people will be reading Derek Walcott as long as we've been reading John Milton."

Walcott said his energy to write came from being part of a generation of Caribbean writers who were the first to describe the world beyond their doorsteps.

"I go back to St. Lucia and the exhilaration I feel is not simply the exhilaration of homecoming and of nostalgia," he said. "It is almost an irritation of feeling: Well, you never got it right. Now you have another chance. Maybe you can try and look harder."

Many would say Derek Walcott did get it right.