Not at Home in One's Home: Caribbean Self-Fashioning in the Poetry of Luis Palés Matos, Aimé Césaire, and Derek Walcott

Not at Home in One's Home: Caribbean Self-Fashioning in the Poetry of Luis Palés Matos, Aimé Césaire, and Derek Walcott

Not at Home in One's Home: Caribbean Self-Fashioning in the Poetry of Luis Palés Matos, Aimé Césaire, and Derek Walcott

Not at Home in One's Home: Caribbean Self-Fashioning in the Poetry of Luis Palés Matos, Aimé Césaire, and Derek Walcott

Synopsis

This study examines the work of three important 20th century Caribbean poets, focusing on one major work by each of them: Pales Matos' 'Tuntun de pasa y griferia' (Puerto Rico); Cesaire's 'Cahier d'un retour au pays natal' (Martinique), and Derek Walcott's 'Omeros' (St. Lucia).

Excerpt

During a 1975 interview, talking about his autobiographical poem Another life, Derek Walcott explained that, “It is a particular experience. But in a sense it is a biography of an ‘intelligence,’ a West Indian intelligence, using it in the Latin sense of spirit. So, the biographical chronicle is not a physical one so much. Other intelligences are in the poem.” Walcott’s indecision regarding the exact point of encounter between the specificity of his autobiographical experience (“a particular experience”), its representativeness as a Caribbean experience (“a West Indian intelligence”), and its broader, more “universal” appeal (“an intelligence”) adequately expresses some of the problems that I examine in the following pages. By exploring three key works by three major twentieth-century Caribbean poets, I intend to analyze some of the complex issues at stake in the poetic articulation of a “West Indian intelligence.” As Walcott’s words suggest, the negotiation and constant reconfiguration of the always fragile and movable line between public and private spaces, between the imperative of self-articulation and the acknowledgment of those “other intelligences,” are integral part of this process.

The Puerto Rican Luis Palés Matos, the Martinican Aimé Césaire, and the St. Lucian Derek Walcott all share a similar perplexity regarding the interaction of the three dimensions that Walcott mentions in his interview, dimensions that often pull them toward quite contradictory directions within the textual space of one single poem. Such tensions, it may be argued, occur in every poem worth its name, for the porous limits between poetic persona and official writer, between the particularity of experience and the necessary generality of language, between political commitment and aesthetic concerns, those are so intrinsically imbricated in each other and shift their relative positions so constantly, that to distinguish them too strictly seems ultimately arbitrary and perhaps futile. However, in the work of these poets those tensions appear exacerbated as tensions, rather than as . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.