“Fishing the Twilight for Alternate Voices”: The Early Poems and <i>Henri Christophe</i>

Paul Breslin

in Nobody's Nation

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226074269
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226074283 | DOI:
“Fishing the Twilight for Alternate Voices”: The Early Poems and Henri Christophe

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This chapter traces the emergence of Walcott's style from the interplay of influences in both West Indian culture and the canon of Anglo–American literature as he encountered it from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Walcott's engagement with the “little tradition” — its heroes and legends, its language and form — begins in Henri Christophe, with its choice of postrevolutionary Haiti as subject and with its incorporation of creole vernacular speech. Five years later, he would write The Sea at Dauphin entirely in vernacular — so much so that outsiders had trouble understanding the dialogue. The early poems, in contrast, may describe West Indian places and experience, but the form and language of the representation come “from abroad.” Not until 1958, with the first version of “Tales of the Islands,” did Walcott attempt sustained vernacular in his poems. But the early volumes repay attention if read as the record of a young colonial poet's struggle to find his relation to the Anglo–American tradition.

Keywords: Derek Walcott; West Indian culture; Anglo–American literature; Haiti; creole vernacular; poems; Henri Christophe

Chapter.  15554 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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