In an interview with Rose Styron in 1997, Derek Walcott described the place where he lives in St. Lucia as “here . . . near the sea, up at Becune Point.” Becune Point juts out to sea at the northwest tip of St. Lucia. It is open to the sea on three sides and looks out to Pigeon Island and the ghosts of St. Lucian history Walcott unearthed through Major Plunkett’s dreams of a soldier ancestor stationed at Pigeon Island during the Battle of the Saintes. The house in which he lives was purchased shortly after his being awarded the Nobel Prize. As Hilton Als described it in the New Yorker in 2004:
Walcott’s house is actually three houses resting on a bluff above the sea. There’s the main house, where he and Sigrid eat and sleep; his studio; and another little house, for guests. At the center of the structures is a white lap pool. The interior of the main house is dark, and the rooms are like cabins on a ship. There are couches and bookcases. Walcott’s studio has a loft with a bed. On the lower level, where he works, some of his paintings are stacked on the floor or tucked into big wooden flat files. His manual typewriter, an Olivetti, faces the sea. Sigrid told me, “When Derek won the prize, he said, ‘Quick, find a house!’ He never really owned much of anything before.”
We set out to walk to Becune Point, looking for the spot from which Walcott had painted his beautiful watercolors of the Point-that “incredible blue with its bird-inviting cloud” as he writes in Omeros. We started our walk at the old Great House at Cap Estate, formerly a 1,500 acre plantation now subdivided into lots for luxury homes. Next to the house (now a restaurant) stands the open-air Derek Walcott Center Theater.
We made our way down the hill past a housing development , heading towards the sea and the Point. A young man on horseback pointed us in the direction of the water, where, as if in a vision, we found the horses Walcott describes in his St. Lucian epic:
Stamping their hooves from thirst, small horses drowse
or whinny for water. On parched, ochre headlands, daggers
of agave bristle in primordial defense,
like a cornered monster backed up against the sea.
And there, finally before us, was Becune Point:
Stunned heat of noon. In shade, tan, silken cows
hide in the thorned acacias. A butterfly staggers.
For Hilton Als’ profile of Walcott in the New Yorker see: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/02/09/040209fa_fact1
To read Walcott’s poem “Becune Point” from Omeros go to: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=29636
My thanks to Rachel Friedman and Gordon Gebert for the photographs of the horses.