A Far Cry from Africa

by Derek Walcott

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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 275

When analyzing ‘‘A Far Cry from Africa,’’ most critics comment on the poem's message and what it reveals about the poet, rather than the technical aspects of its creation. In an article titled ‘‘West Indies II: Walcott, Brathwaite, and Authenticity,’’ Bruce King remarks, ‘‘The poem is remarkable for its complexity of emotions’’ and that it ‘‘treats of the Mau Mau uprising in terms that mock the usual justifications for and criticisms of colonialism.’’ King notes that the narrator is stricken with ‘‘confused, irreconcilably opposed feelings: identification with black Africa, disgust with the killing of both white and black innocents, distrust of motives, love of the English language, and dislike of those who remain emotionally uninvolved.'' In his article ‘‘Ambiguity Without a Crisis? Twin Traditions, The Individual and Community in Derek Walcott's Essays,'' Fred D'Aguiar also deals with the division at the heart of the poem: ‘‘Already there is the ambivalence which hints at synthesis at the heart of the proclaimed division, a wish to artificially expose long buried oppositions between ancestries in need of reconciliation if the artist—and his community—are to grow.’’ Though the poet seeks reconciliation, he does not appear to achieve it, which only accentuates his dilemma, a point Rei Terada makes in his Derek Walcott's Poetry: ‘‘His often antholologized early poem 'A Far Cry from Africa' (1962), for example, places the poet 'Between this Africa and the English tongue I love.' Even in this poem, however, betweenness is not a solution, but an arduous problem. Even here, betweenness cannot adequately conceptualize the poet's position, since betweenness doesn't necessarily question the authenticity of the oppositions supposedly surrounding the poet.’’

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Essays and Criticism