The difficulties that face any serious writer have been repeatedly documented; obstacles to the pursuit of poetry abound. The critical, personal, and artistic demands made by the poet upon himself are enough to keep him busy even if there were no outside pressures. Fathoming one’s depths, absorbing family history and consciousness, balancing the cerebral and the emotional, and finding, learning, and practicing the appropriate craft together comprise a formidable task. During his long and distinguished career, Derek Walcott has confronted and finally painstakingly resolved the dilemma of the artist who writes with no deliberate, well-defined, or established poetic tradition.
Born in St. Lucia in the West Indies, Walcott writes from the vantage point of a culture of mixed heritages, a stance which enriches and informs his work with variety and vitality as well as with poetic tension. He has grown steadily in reputation and stature as a poet, at the same time that he has been a prolific and capable playwright. His first important volume, In a Green Night (1962), marked him as the outstanding Caribbean poet writing in English; several subsequent volumes strove to balance native dialect and formal English. Another Life (1973) and Sea Grapes (1976) each worked toward the resolution of Walcott’s identity as a poet, and have solidified and evidenced his worth as a dramatic writer of verse.
The Star-Apple Kingdom takes its name from the star-apple trees which are scattered in profusion throughout the Caribbean islands. Like most good poets, Walcott does a number of things at one time. The volume as a whole traces a voyage, a quest, beginning with “The Schooner Flight,” which describes the Odyssean journey of a half-breed, Shabine, who flees the corruption of colonialism and who experiences both guilt and relief as a result:
(The entire section is 797 words.)