Toni Nicholls, writing for the St Lucia Star, looks at the island’s Literary Festival, launched last week. Here are some excerpts. Follow the link below for the full text and additional photographs.
Thursday March 25, was the opening night of the four-day “Word Alive Literary Festival,” at Samaans Park. This year, the event is being held in honour of Walcott and a visual art display by secondary school students, inspired by the work of the Saint Lucian Nobel Laureate, welcomed the few who made their way to Samaans Park. Nakeem Charles, who is just fifteen years old, was in attendance and also contributed to the exhibition. Afterwards the young
lad told me that it was truly an exciting experience and he could not wait to tell his friends that they should have been there. “I mean hearing about Derek Walcott is one thing but to see him and hear him read in person, I was very happy for that opportunity,” the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School student said.
In declaring the festival open Adrian Augier, the founder of Word Alive expressed, in more ways than one, the need for greater investment in the arts for young persons like Nakeem and others, interested in converting art into economic sustainability. In calling for greater investments in the arts Augier said that this has to be seen as an investment in the future. “This work is so very important, the turning of people on to more than jam and wine and chicken and rum. This broadening of horizons, this revelry in the pleasure of language and communication, this event which gives young writers a platform and a staging ground on which to take off into the world beyond bacchanal and bananas. This work is so important, this opportunity for imagery and metaphor, for expressing what we feel and who we are and what we have to say, to say about ourselves, our families our communities, our country and ultimately our Caribbean,” Augier intoned. “The whole gamut of our being is in our language as dear as life itself, this is art, this is art,” he impressed upon his listeners as he stressed “it is not an option it is a necessity, it is not an extra it is the foundation.”
. . .
Derek Walcott was then introduced by Eddie Bauer who stated that in “White Egrets” as in each preceding one by Walcott, there are all sorts of Walcott themes and obsessions that recur, some with new emphasis, with new urgency. He stressed on the theme of old age, (Walcott turned 80 in January) and its discontent.
“Derek Walcott is a poet who was always prematurely old,” Bauer stated pointing to lines in “Another life” and “The Seagrapes” which deals with various aspects of mortality. He then read from “White Egrets” a poem set in New City called “The Village” which ends; “look, it is just the old story of a heart that won’t call it quits whatever the odds.” “And in a way all of this book, is in those lines,” Bauer stated before reading several other pieces by Walcott to illustrate his point.
Derek was then helped onto the stage by Adrian Augier where he comfortably ploughed into a leather sofa. “Thank you Eddie I will pay you later,” he said in his wry humour and then leafed through to find his first poem. “Bossman, if you look in those bush there,” he started one of his pieces as his voice sometimes trailed into a low growl. An animated and exuberant reader, Walcott has never quite been, but the ravages of age that Bauer spoke of seemed now in full flight. Still Walcott was defiant and read on.
He went on to relate the genesis of his pieces in tribute to Barack Obama, one of them which was inspired by sitting in his barber’s chair in Gros Islet when his hair cropper stated; ‘So the world is waiting for Obama.’ From the piece Forty Acres Derek reads; “Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving/a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls/an emblem of impossible prophecy/ a crowd dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed/ parting for their president/a field of snow-flecked cotton.”
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