White Egrets Poems

Derek Walcott

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

96 Pages



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Winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry

In White Egrets, Derek Walcott treats the characteristic subjects of his career—his love of the Western literary tradition, the Caribbean's complex colonial legacy, the wisdom that comes with the passing of time, the always strange joys of new love, and the sometimes terrifying beauty of the natural world—with an intensity and drive that recall his greatest work. Through the mesmerizing repetition of theme and imagery, Walcott creates an almost surflike cadence, broadening in possibilities of rhyme and meter, poetic form and language.  White Egrets is a moving new collection from one of the most important poets of the twentieth century—a celebration of the life and language of the West Indies. It is also a triumphant paean to beauty, love, art, and—perhaps most surprisingly—getting older.


Praise for White Egrets

"More than almost any other contemporary poet, Derek Walcott might seem to be fulfilling T. S. Eliot’s program for poetry. He has distinguished himself in all of what Eliot described as the 'three voices of poetry': the lyric, the narrative or epic, and the dramatic . . . Walcott has deliberately avoided the confessional path pioneered by his early friend and supporter Robert Lowell, choosing instead a post-Romantic voice, closely allied with landscape, in which the particulars of a life are incidental to a larger poetic vision, one in which the self is not the overt subject. All the more striking, then, is Walcott’s new book, White Egrets—for it is both visionary, in the best sense of that word, and intensely personal, even autobiographical. It is an old man’s book, craving one more day of light and warmth; and it is a book of stoic reckoning . . . These poems do achieve an extraordinary intimacy of tone, but they also conjure, for that reader, a full spectrum of responses to mortality, from calm ('I reflect quietly on how soon I will be going') through self-mocking ('What? You’re going to be Superman at seventy-seven?') to something darker ('the pitch of para­lysed horror / that his prime is past'). And it is the calm that impresses most, after the disturbances of passion, as Walcott speaks of 'that peace / beyond desires and beyond regrets / at which I may arrive eventually.' White Egrets is also a reckoning with a lifetime’s artistic practice, a measuring of the self against immortals: Wyatt, Surrey and Clare among poets, and among artists (for Walcott is also an accomplished painter, though severe in his judgment of himself) Mantegna, Crivelli and Sarto, Hals, Rubens and Rembrandt . . . For all this new book’s awareness of one geographical location, its true achievement lies in what we might call a pelagic poetic consciousness. Walcott is, in some way, 'homelessly at home,' as Richard Wilbur once said. The mind of these poems exists simultaneously in St. Lucia and in Sicily (after all, St. Lucy—the patron saint of light or vision—came from the Italian city of Syracuse); in a harbor that is at once Rodney Bay, Venice and Stockholm; under a mountain that is both the Petit Piton and the Matterhorn. This is the simultaneous vision that allowed Walcott’s epic Omeros to range so effortlessly across the Atlantic Ocean and to exist in the Old World and the New, though in this late work the tide pulls strongly eastward."—Karl Kirchwey, The New York Times Book Review

"Derek Walcott has moved with gradually deepening confidence to found his own poetic domain, independent of the tradition he inherited yet not altogether orphaned from it . . . The Walcott line is still sponsored by Shakespeare and the Bible, happy t surprise by fine excess. It can be incantatory and self-entrancing . . . It can be athletic and demotic . . . It can compel us with the almost hydraulic drag of its words."—Seamus Heaney
"[Walcott] gives us more than himself or 'a world'; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language."—Joseph Brodsky
"Characters come fully and movingly to life in Walcott's hands; black and white are treated with equal understanding and sympathy as they go their complicated ways . . . Wit and verbal play . . . enliven every page."—Bernard Knox, The New York Review of Books

Reviews from Goodreads



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DEREK WALCOTT was born in St. Lucia in 1930. He is the author of eight collections of plays and a book of essays. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. White Egrets is his fourteenth collection of poems.
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  • Derek Walcott

  • Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia in 1930. He is the author of eight collections of plays and a book of essays. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. White Egrets is his fourteenth collection of poems.
  • Derek Walcott © Danielle Devaux / danidevaux.com