Saturday, March 18, 2017

Derek Walcott (1930-2017) - 'Love After Love'

Saddened to hear the news yesterday that Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott passed away after long illness at his home in St Lucien. I have a friend who studied under him at Columbia University (in the year he won the Nobel, 1992) and he seemed to have been an electrifying presence in the classroom.

He will be remembered most (perhaps) for his groundbreaking, epic collection Omeros which appeared in 1990, though the poem most often quoted from him is 'Love after Love'. It is a piece of great insight and tenderness towards oneself, which is a difficult thing to achieve in a poem.

I have been trying to find Walcott himself reading this piece but haven't managed. There was a really wonderful rendition of it by Linton Kweisi Johnson (with those lilting Caribbean cadences so appropriate to the poem) last night on BBC's 'Newsnight', but that isn't available yet, alas. For now, here is a version by the fine British actor Tom Hiddleston.







Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.




Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Certain Slant of Light - Emily Dickinson / music David Sylvian

The English musician and singer David Sylvian has been engaging with the work (or lives) of a number of poets over recent years. On his highly experimental album Manafon (2009) there are some beautifully pared back pieces about R.S. Thomas and Sylvia Plath. He has also produced an album-length interpretation of the late American poet Franz Wright's work (which I may post at a later point).

For now, this is his interpretation of Emily Dickinson's poem 'A Certain Slant of Light', which appears on the album Died in the Wool from 2012.









There's a certain Slant of light

There's a certain Slant of light, 
Winter Afternoons – 
That oppresses, like the Heft 
Of Cathedral Tunes – 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar, 
But internal difference – 
Where the Meanings, are – 

None may teach it – Any – 
'Tis the seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction 
Sent us of the Air – 

When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance 
On the look of Death –


Emily Dickinson