Selected Poems

Derek Walcott; Edited by Edward Baugh

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

328 Pages



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Drawing from every stage of his career, Derek Walcott's Selected Poems brings together famous pieces from his early volumes, including "A Far Cry from Africa" and "A City's Death by Fire," with passages from the celebrated Omeros and selections from his latest major works, which extend his contributions to reenergizing the contemporary long poem. Here we find all of Walcott's essential themes, from grappling with the Caribbean's colonial legacy to his conflicted love of home and of Western literary tradition; from the wisdom-making pain of time and mortality to the strange wonder of love, the natural world, and what it means to be human. We see his lifelong labor at poetic crafts, his broadening of the possibilities of rhyme and meter, stanza forms, language, and metaphor. Edited and with an introduction by the Jamaican poet and critic Edward Baugh, this volume is a representation of Walcott's breadth of work, spanning almost half a century.


Praise for Selected Poems

"No poet rivals Mr. Walcott in humor, emotional depth, lavish inventiveness in language or in the ability to express the thoughts of his characters and compel the reader to follow the swift mutations of ideas and images in their minds . . . [His poetry] makes us realize that history, all of it, belongs to us."—The New York Times
“The poetry of exile begins in sorrow. No matter how awful Rome, the Black Sea will never seem like home (when you have to go home, the landscape is what has to take you in). Walcott has captured his islands with a lushness and richness rare in our poetry—the outposts of empire once seemed as strange as Kipling’s India or Bishop’s Brazil. If air travel has brought them closer, it has brought their tragedies closer as well. No living poet has written verse more delicately rendered or distinguished than Walcott . . . For more than half a century he has served as our poet of exile—a man almost without a country, unless the country lies wherever he has landed, in flight from himself.”—William Logan, The New York Times Book Review
"Walcott's Selected Poems is his first selected edition in more than forty years. This new version is comprehensive in its scope, drawing from every stage of the Nobel laureate's career . . . Edited by Jamaican poet and critic Edward Baugh, this book illustrates why Walcott has been so influential for the last half-century."—American Poet

“Poems written 60 years ago, while the 1992 Nobel Prize winner was still in his teens, are timeless in their magic and cumulative power . . . Selected Poems allows us the rare pleasure of tracing a long career, a full life. In important ways the ‘old man’ is still the youth of ‘Prelude’ but, if anything, more luminous.”—Richard Wakefield, The Seattle Times

“A new anthology, Selected Poems, surveys Walcott’s literary terrain as mapped by Edward Baugh, the Jamaican poet and scholar. Experts can sniff at choices and omissions necessitated by 269 pages (how can you pare down Walcott’s epic Omeros?). But we lay readers can embrace this handy sampler as a companion on beaches and vacation byways of our own . . . All the hallmarks of mature Walcott are in play: the long-breathed lines, operatic in their demand to be read without a break; the insistent rhythm of a friend of music; the watercolorists’s eye; the tug of memory . . . If you’ll take these poems along this summer, you’ll love them harder every year.”—Dean C. Smith, The News & Observer (Raleigh)

"This career-spannning retrospective, culled from nearly 50 years of work, will go a long way toward reminding readers of the breadth and depth of Nobel laureate Walcott's achievement. Though he is perhaps best known for his modern epic, Omeros, which tells a Homeric tale set in St. Lucia, Walcott is a fine lyric poet as well, writing in traditional forms and meters as well as in powerful free verse. Alongside the epic tone that he brought into modern verse—'I sing of Achille, Afolabe's son,/ who never ascended in an elevator'—is lustful writing about a woman humming Bob Marley on a bus, a casual description of being mugged in Greenwich Village or a painter's-eye view of a fish. The political Walcott is also here; observing a crowd listening to a politician, he writes, 'Who will name this silence/ respect? Those forced, hoarse hosannas/ awe?' . . . [T]his book represents a milestone in the career of a major writer."—Publishers Weekly
Table of Contents
Introduction by Edward Baugh
From In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962)
As John to Patmos
A City's Death by Fire
A Far Cry from African Ruins of a Great House
Tales of the Islands
Return to D'Ennery; Rain
A Letter from Brooklyn
From The Castaway and Other Poems (1965)
The Castaway
The Flock
The Almond Trees
Crusoe's Island
From The Gulf and Other Poems (1969)
Mass Man
Homage to Edward Thomas
The Gulf
Landfall, Grenada
Homecoming: Anse La Raye
Nearing Forty
From Another Life (1973)
Chapter 1
I ("Verandahs, where the pages of the sea")
II ("In its dimensions the drawing could not trace")
Chapter 2
II ("Maman, / only on Sundays was the Singer silent")
III ("Old house, old woman, old room")
Chapter 7
II ("About the August of my fourteenth year")
III ("Our father, / who floated in the vaults of Michangelo")
IV ("Noon, / and its sacred water sprinkles")
V ("Who could tell, in 'the crossing of that pair'")
Chapter 9
I ("There are already, invisible on canvas")
II ("Where did I fail? I could draw")
Chapter 14 ("When the oil green water glows but doesn't catch")
Chapter 20 ("Smug, behind glass, we watch the passengers")
Chapter 22 ("Miasma, acedia, the enervations of damp")
From Sea Grapes (1976)
Sea Grapes
Adam's Song
The Cloud
Parades, Parades
The Bright Field
Sainte Lucie
Sea Canes
Midsummer, Tobago
Oddjob, a Bull Terrier
To Return to the Tress
From The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979)
The Schooner Flight
1. Adios, Carenge
3. Shabine Leaves the Republic
4. The Flight, Passing Blanchisseuse
5. Shabine Encounters the Middle Passage
6. The Sailor Sings Back to the Casuarinas
7. The Flight Anchors in Castries Harbour
8. Fight with the Crew
10. Out of the Depths
11. After the Storm
The Sea Is History
The Saddhu of Couva
Forest of Europe
From The Fortunate Traveller (1981)
Piano Practice
The Spoiler's Return
Early Pompeian
The Fortunate Traveller
The Season of Phantasmal Peace
From Midsummer (1984)
I ("The jet bores like a silverfish through volumes of cloud")
II ("Companion in Rome, whom Rome makes as old as Rome")
VI ("Midsummer stretches beside me with its cat's yawn")
XLIX ("A wind-scraped headland, a sludgy dishwater sea")
LI ("Since all of your work was really an effort to appease")
LIII ("There was one Syrian, with his bicycle, in our town")
LIV ("The midsummer sea, the hot pitch road, this grass, these shacks that made me")
From The Arkansas Testament (1987)
Saint Lucia's First Communion
The Light of the World
Night Fishing
Winter Lamps
For Adrian
The Arkansas Testament
From Omeros (1990)
Chapter I ("'This is how, one sunrise, we cut down them canoes'")
Chapter III 
I ("'Touchez-i, encore: N'ai fendre choux-ous-ou, salope!'")
Chapter IV ("I sat on the white terrace waiting for the cheque")
Chapter V
III ("How fast it fades! Maud thought; the enameled sky")
Chapter XXIV ("From his heart's depth he knew she was never coming")
Chapter XXV ("Mangrove, their ankles in water, walked with the canoe")
Chapter LXIV ("I sang of quiet Achille, Afolabe's son")
From The Bounty (1997)
4 Thanksgiving
14 ("Never get used to this; the feathery, swaying casuarinas")
24 ("Alphaeus Prince, What a name! He was one of the Princes")
26 ("The sublime always begins with the chord 'And then I saw'")
27 ("Praise to the rain, eraser of picnics, praise the grey cloud")
31 Italian Eclogues
I ("On the bright road to Rome, beyond Mantua")
34 ("At the end of this line there is an opening door")
From Tiepolo's Hound (2000)
I ("They stroll on Sundays down Dronningens Street")
1. ("Falling from chimneys, an exhausted arrow—")
2. ("O, the exclamation of white roses, of a wet")
3. ("Since light was simply particles in air")
XXII ("One dawn I woke up to the gradual terror")
3. ("I looked beyond the tarmac. A bright field")
4. ("Fall; and a cool blonde crosses Christopher—")
XXVI ("The swallows flit in immortality")
From The Prodigal (2004)
I ("Chasms and fissures of the vertiginous Alps")
IV ("I wanted to be able to write: 'There is nothing like it'")
III ("'So, how was Italy?' My neighbor grinned")
IV ("Blue-grey morning, sunlight shaping Jersey")
I ("I lay on the bed near the balcony in Guadalajara")
II ("I carry a small white city in my head")
IV ("When we were boys coming home from the beach")
I ("Flare of the flame tree and white egrets stalking")
II ("And the first voice replied in the foam")
III ("So has it come to this, to have to choose?")
I ("Ritorno a Milano, if that's correct")
II ("A grey dawn, dun. Rain-gauze shrouding the headlines")
II ("Compare Milan, compare a glimpse of the Arno")
III ("We were headed steadily into the open sea")
IIV ("I had gaped in anticipation of an emblem")

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Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia in 1930. He is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, seven collections of plays, and a book of essays. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.
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  • Derek Walcott; Edited by Edward Baugh

  • Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia in 1930. He is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, seven collections of plays, and a book of essays. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.
  • Derek Walcott © Danielle Devaux /