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This review is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

INTERNATIONAL MODERN Derek Walcott, Midsummer (Faber) £3.95
E. A. Markham, Human Rites (Anvil) £4.95

Midsummer is a meditative sequence which exemplifies more powerfully and more imaginatively than anything Walcott has previously written the tangled paradoxes of the Caribbean myth. The major paradox for the Caribbean writer is that, even if he wishes to side with Caliban, he must reach for the tradition of Prospero to express himself. Around this major paradox are clustered an abundance of minor paradoxes: of making and wasting, of not-making and wanting, the love-hate nexus of envy and contempt that links the Caribbean to the wealthy West and particularly to former colonial rulers, the staying-or-leaving resentments which so readily attach to the observations of (say) V. S. Naipaul, and so on. For one of Walcott's two-edged sensibility the paradoxes multiply further: 'Was evil brought to this place/with language?' he demands in XXIV here, yet on the one hand he remains uncommitted to any Edenic vision (being too fond of observing the actual), and on the other hand he knows well that it is the vehicle of language which first permits that fullest sensual savouring of the actual which these poems represent. It is no part of Derek Walcott's temperament to try to resolve these tangles. Rather, he uses them to enrich the dense textures of his luxurious verse.

Thus a verse vehicle which is mainly a relaxed, partly-rhymed echo of iambic pentameter, with a tendency to hexametric self-classicizing, accommodates set-piece descriptions of Trinidad, the USA, Britain and other places, Gothic fantasies and Jesuitical rhetoric, anecdotal recollection and ...


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