Alter/Native Metaphors in Fulfilment
Another Life (1973), Walcott's long autobiographical poem, is wellestablished as a watershed in his poetic achievement. This was the work which brought him recognition as one of the foremost poets writing in English and secured his international reputation. For William Plomer the work placed Walcott among the first four poets writing in English; and Robert Lowell was exultant in a letter to Walcott: “O let me congratulate you again on your tremendous book!” 1 Its impact has been rivalled only by Omeros (1990).
Walcott returns in this work to his artistic beginnings in his native St Lucia, recapturing an experience shared with certain individuals who feature prominently in the poem – two fellow St Lucian artists, Dunstan St Omer and Harold Simmons, and his first love, a St Lucian girl called Andreuille Alcee. It is useful to begin with a look at the genesis of the poem and its period of composition, as these help to put into perspective its aims and achievements. As E. Baugh notes in his pioneering monograph on Another Life,2 it was inspired by “Leaving School” (1965), the autobiographical essay which contains the essential biographical context of the poem. Prompted by the flood of memories released in this essay, Walcott began, in April 1965, to write the prose