Juvenilia to In a Green Night
In Another Life, where he returns to his beginnings in St Lucia to search the roots of his creative endeavour, Walcott characterizes the initial phase of his career as a “divided childhood”, and clearly identifies the source of this dividedness in his deep attachment to the “borrowed metaphors” of the Western tradition. What has crystallized in memory captures the most important truths about that beginning: the reality of a young talent strongly fired with the ambition of being among the first pioneers of a West Indian art, and at the same time, deeply drawn to the artistic achievements of the colonizer's world. He had, however, given direct utterance to this underlying dilemma in the well-known poem “A Far Cry from Africa”, written at the early stages of his career. Responding to the shock of the Mau-Mau crisis in Kenya (early to mid-1950s), the extreme violence of that racial collision between British colonizer and native African, Walcott had been moved to express his own sense of conflicting allegiance between a victimized Africa and “the English tongue I love”:
I who am poisoned with the blood of both, Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?