The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Homecoming: Anse La Raye” is a poem of moderate length, with sixty lines of free verse divided unevenly into four stanzas. The title of the poem indicates the work’s subject: the speaker’s return to the village of Anse la Raye on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia. This island is the birthplace of Derek Walcott, who can be identified as the speaker in the poem.

The poem begins in the first-person plural, but by the second stanza the voice shifts to the second person as the speaker begins to address his poetic self. The speaker states that his poetic self experiences many difficulties when he attempts to fulfill his desire to return and be an intrinsic part of his birthplace. The speaker’s tone is imbued with estrangement and meditative reflection as the problems of his return to Anse la Raye are examined.

The first stanza begins by linking the peoples of the Caribbean region with other cultures. The speaker indicates that in the island’s school the works of antiquity were taught but that these works and their mythological associations, although significant in some ways, were products of other cultures and soon forgotten. For the moment, the speaker’s poetic self concentrates only on the sea and a “well-known passage.” The speaker views the setting without romantic illusions. The “well-known passage” mentioned in the first stanza becomes a “fish-gut-reeking beach.” The ominous tone suggests something more threatening...

(The entire section is 522 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Walcott employs a tone of detachment in “Homecoming: Anse La Raye.” At the beginning of the poem, the speaker uses the pronoun “we,” implying that the speaker is addressing others who happen to share similar experiences. By the end of the second stanza, the speaker begins using the pronoun “you,” referring to his separate poetic self. Because the poem plays on the idea of detachment and even alienation, the use of “you” is more effective but not totally exclusive: The speaker maintains a connection between the “we” of the first stanza and the “you” of the remainder of the poem. As a partially detached observer who uses the second person to observe his own actions, the speaker creates another less-subjective level of interaction with the surrounding environment and its people. This objectivity allows him to remove or dismiss most of the illusions one might possess when considering the experience of homecoming, especially on a Caribbean island.

The speaker gives the island and its people a voice. In a way, the speaker becomes the island. He employs alliteration, as in the use of the “s” sound to mimic the hissing sound of the surrounding sea as well as the ever-present trade winds. The repetitive nature of this device creates a lulling effect for the reader that imitates the constant and somewhat prosaic rhythms of island life.

The imagery in the poem is also symptomatic of the speaker’s unbridled and sometimes...

(The entire section is 446 words.)