Derek Walcott travels to Mexico City to pay tribute to Mexican poet Octavio Paz


Nobel laureate Derek Walcott Caribbean sees writing as a source of strength, Berenice Bautista reports in this article for Texas’ La Voz. Here is my translation. The original report, in Spanish, can be accessed through the link below.

At 84 the poet, awarded the world’s highest literary distinction in 1992, still feels encouraged by traveling and reading the work of other authors, despite a recent stroke that has forced him to use a wheelchair.

“I’ve always written in the same way, since I was young. I do not think my poetry has changed; there may be some variations, but not many,” he said Tuesday at a press conference in the Mexican Capital, where he had traveled to participate in the celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

“In terms of age and my poetic work, I don’t think I’m senile, I do not think my editor would publish the work of a senile old man. Of course, I am aware of my age and the deterioration of my body, of everything that comes with age. But a poet who is a great example of mental toughness is (Ezra) Pound, who worked until he was almost 90 years.”

Unlike poets who reached their literary peak during their youth, Walcott reached the highest point of his career with the publication of Omeros, when he was 60.

“One assumes that poets grow in wisdom with age, but it is not always the case. Octavio did manage it ”

The poet and playwright, born in Castries, St. Lucia, spoke of Paz (whose vitality he praised), alongside Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez, as having defined the landscape of modern Latin American literature. He acknowledged that the language barrier forced him to read Paz in translations, something he regrets.

“Language forms the shape of the poem, surrealism is almost natural in Spanish because metaphors come naturally in the language. Spanish is the language of metaphor,” he said as he offered an example of the differences between Spanish and English, Walcott’s mother tongue, by quoting García Lorca in Spanish. “Cantan los niños en la noche serena” (Children sing in the quiet night), he quoted. “The fluidity of this line is spectacular, and in the “noche serena” what matters most are the “s’s” and the “ch,” and this is all possible because it is Spanish, Spanish is filled with things like these, but what we lose in translation is the magic.”

For the original report go to

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