Remembering Derek Walcott - The Schooner Flight

One of my most loved poets has died - Derek Walcott, at the age of 87.  From a very young age, his poems stuck in my mind like grit.  I think partly because they are so full of longing - a yearning for a particular place.  I was a homesick girl and his poems resonated with that feeling.  But, more than that, they are full of the sea and the natural landscape and his words have a 'rightness' that makes him one of the greatest poets. There's a very good tribute to him in the Guardian today.  And if you would like to listen to him talking about the music that meant most to him, this is the link to BBC Radio 4. 

Just wanted to post this short sonnet-shaped excerpt from Star Apple Kingdom.  It's about sea fever and also about the poet's craft.

Derek Walcott on St Lucia [New Yorker]

The Schooner ‘Flight’

As I worked, watching the rotting waves come
past the bow that scissor the sea like milk,
I swear to you all, by my mother's milk,
by the stars that shall fly from tonight's furnace,
that I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;
I loved them as poets love the poetry
that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea.

You ever look up from some lonely beach
and see a far schooner? Well, when I write
this poem, each phrase go be soaked in salt;
I go draw and knot every line as tight
as ropes in this rigging; in simple speech
my common language go be the wind,
my pages the sails of the schooner Flight.


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