Espace libre expression

Hommage à Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott

Par Earl Lovelace

A work in progress

In islands in which achievement has meant escape and by escaping the escapee confirms   the wretchedness of the space, perhaps Derek Walcott’s great gift to us has been to remain and make a home here, not by using his own gifts as chips to exploit the mediocrity bred by the fear of change , but by demanding from the space the loyalty and attentiveness to effort aimed at  the construction of a place that returnees can return to  and ,when the time came,  enough of a place so that Shabine would be able to have more than a beach  to leave.

The theatre Workshop was one concrete example of this struggle and triumph so that more than fifty years later it remains a symbol of the grandeur of its better days as a stubborn resolve , ambition whittled down to a manageable size. On the outskirts of the town

I knew Walcott from young, in the days when he roared in this city and led a flock of actors from bar to bar cursing everybody black is white.   . He was despite his often-forbidding exterior, a man with a twinkle in his mind, with a store of jokes . He was very funny.

As a director and leader he demanded from his flock the same tough punctuality and discipline that he required of himself.

Trinidad was lucky to have him when we did , a shabine from St. Lucia, with no cocoa in sun, belonging to no club , with  nobody’s fire-rage to take up , free to be allowed to represent a  vision, to make his own enemies and to choose his  friends . He would become a presence here, a pillar before the twin towers or the malls , young poets making pilgrimage to his home in  Petit Valley, seeking asylum in his shade .  And here we must mention Margaret in whose debt we remain .

There are two things that stand out to me from Walcott. He was a man who was faithful to his truths and he had the confidence, the audacity, the self-belief to try on every idea  that surfaced in the space, first by dismissing it, then trying it on to see  how it fit, as if he had to experience first the antipathy of a certain stance, feel it before he could pass judgement on it.

He went as far as any Caribbean writer in telling the truth about himself, his motives, his quarrels with the workshop, his disappointments. He criticised at various stages black power, the old leadership, and the new leadership of the people. The followers, their ignorance. He was for Naipaul and against Naipaul .He became a rednigger, shabine, lestrade, ti Jean, Crusoe and Friday. He was himself Warwickshire and Ashanti .Each book of poetry was an event, another stage, another insight; each play illuminating another   corner.

So at the end his followers embraced him not because they could follow where he led, or embrace what he said , but because in a way he had been all, been everything. And that is what he remained, a work in progress, guided by his own talent and genius and love, a mas man playing a different mas every year. In constant rehearsal. He was someone we could respect.

But if there was passion - And this is the other thing  -  There was never contempt . There was love . Walcott loved his islands and the folk .

At the end of the day he came to see that we were as good as anybody.

Even though he struggled for acknowledgement, for validation at every turn, he ended up with the confidence to feel himself a small boy on an island  guided by love, blessed by obscurity, cherishing our insignificance.

It was a blessing to have him in our midst.

Go well, Derek.


Hommage à Derek Walcott par le bureau de l’association des écrivains de la Caraïbe

La Guadeloupe, par l’intermédiaire du Conseil régional et de l’Association des écrivains de la Caraïbe, a eu l’insigne honneur de recevoir, en 2008, Derek Walcott, qui vient de nous quitter.
Il a été l’invité d’honneur du premier Congrès des écrivains de la Caraïbe, organisé en Guadeloupe en 2008. Ce prix Nobel de Littérature en 1992, ce voisin sainte-lucien, a éclairé, par la fulgurance de sa pensée et de ses multiples écrits, la première édition du Congrès. Il put faire part aux invités de ses analyses pointues, parfois décapantes sur la thématique retenue : « La littérature caribéenne, état des lieux, problématiques et perspectives ».
Poète, dramaturge, enseignant, il était un curieux et créatif passeur de savoir ; un défenseur acharné de la Caraïbe, de sa diversité et de ses apports au savoir universel. Les œuvres littéraires, poétiques et théâtrales d’expression francophone étaient des fréquentations fraternelles pour cet érudit.
Puissent son œuvre, sa rigueur et la profondeur de sa pensée, continuer à éclairer les pas de l’Association des écrivains de la Caraïbe !

Le bureau de l’association des écrivains de la Caraïbe



For Derek – in memoriam


You; it is always you from the beginning,
a canoe full of words, a quiver of verbs;
a bailer in the stern un-nerved by language,
flowing how Troumassee once flowed from your heart
seaward; calabash displacing bilge
in a rhythmical flood like  discarded lines
from a poem, not just because they are not
beautiful, but since they cannot fit.

I never told you how I have found solace
in your themes; an inner peace, even in grief.
Let me do so before it’s too late for you
to understand this prodigal returning
to say thanks, Maestro, with a net of words cast
along a beach, hoping for sprats... without you,
‘the might-have-been may never have been birthed.’

Without you, there may never have been Robert,
Kendel, maybe Jane; Goddard, or Adrian,
or Luciens’ gift – Vladimir, listed here
in order of birth, not fame; and countless more.
I may never have written one drivelling line
had I not  stumbled on 25 Poems
on a dark shelf waiting for the touch of light.

Without you, with tiller in hand to steer us
clear of yawning cliffs, with their jaws ajar,
welcomes debates about floundered lines; on coasts
that bear the scars of many wrecks; where words snap
at words, never to see sunrise or sunset
as they should be seen — imagined  like the green
flash raving it’s iridescent light briefly over
a cobalt sea that only you can see now.

The sea follows Odysseus, outward bound,
spreading his net of words everywhere: New York,
Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad, Boston,
trawling, trudging, trawling, different lights, trawling;
neon, phosphorescent, thinning with the smog
of cities, jacketed in pale gray, hauling
like commerce, light up and down main streets, Sharpening
metaphor meant for one poem but follows
them all like a theme throughout.

After so many, many years, you return
to your island; you never left. Your canoe
appears at dusk; gauges the distance between
islet and bay, a Cyclops, eye in the hold,
with your catch; never forgetting manchineel
stings when rain. Gauguin came, in watercolours,
preserved your villages, so you could find them
intact like the morning you left, before he
himself left for Tahiti.

Women flock to the bay on pilgrimages
for fish. The bay that could be Roseau, Dennery,
or Gros Islet. They hear you come back for good;
remembering bottle green eyes, weak kneed, they sink
in sand. News of Odysseus returning
is blown on conch shell horns, Afa, Augistin,
even soft spoken Hounakin, who never
bothered with race once food reach on the table
and their children eat, come too. ‘Poopa da was fete...’

We will always celebrate in your words,
the same gift you gave freely like parts of speech —
incantations; alliterations; lines —
Similes grow in ink from your penless nib...
Why suddenly have all the metaphors gone
scarce, they are all in your net, there is no fresh
crop, except those that come by sea in a conch’s
echo and murmur like cockles retreating
under the sand defiant to the tide’s pull –

You have been the yardstick by which we measure
gabardine to make our suits for  christenings,
first communions, weddings, even death... Leave us
to dismantle the hieroglyphics, if we can...

Your ‘Adamic task,’ the harvesting of sound
began when the sea crab burst through sand, pincers
alert, pecking at familiar things: mango
skin, pomegranate seeds, and – forget the and,
the list is too long to repeat. You join worlds
together with less. Greece is not a nation
in the Aegean, but the Caribbean
sea. The earth shakes continuously dreaming
of cataclysms worlds apart, lines misplaced
in time  with text and history, present assumes
its proper place – words soliciting other words.

Still I never told you how much I have learnt
about the world, repeating your lines — should I?
But your task is not yet done; it just begin -

DIXON Mac Donald


From LINE: for Derek Walcott

© John Robert Lee

Derek Walcott

“to every line there is a time and a season.” (DW)

When have I not measured this land by your lines?

When have I not tracked blue-smoke pits to their river-stone roots by your metaphor?

When have I not walked, Walcott, by your fire-scorched love, through uptown lanes


of old Castries, strolled the revolving corners of Chaussée, Coral, Broglie, Victoria?

You leave us your covenants with the everlasting fretworked eaves

of Riverside Road, gommier canots and their men from Dauphin to Vieux Fort,


the epiphanic groves of Mon Repos, the stone chapel of Rivière Dorée, the turning


whispering of Methodist hymnals on Chisel Street.

It’s what’s left, at the end of the line (I imagine you insisting) that scans our lives,

marks our season’s faith, and amortizes all indentured loans.


(Photo of Walcott on his 80th birthday by J R Lee).







Notice rédigée par Roger Toumson et Alex SINAPAH

Le vendredi 28 août 2015 ont été célébrées, dans son île natale tant aimée, Marie-Galante, les obsèques de notre très cher collègue et ami, Jean-Michel Cusset. Décédé à Paris, la semaine précédente, sa dépouille mortelle ayant été rapatriée, la veillée funèbre eut lieu à Grand Bourg, le jeudi 27 août, et l'inhumation, le lendemain, vendredi 28, à Saint-Louis.

En apprenant la triste nouvelle du décès de Jean-Michel Cusset nous avons été, comme tous ceux qui l'ont connu sous ses traits les plus attachants, accablés d'une tristesse inconsolable et nous nous insurgions contre la cruauté du destin. Jean-Michel Cusset nous a été enlevé dans la force de l'âge, alors qu'il donnait la pleine mesure de sa vocation intellectuelle et littéraire.

Né à Dakar, au Sénégal, de parents guadeloupéens, de souche marie-galantaise, Jean-Michel Cusset eut un itinéraire de vie et de pensée tout entier placé sous le signe distinctif de la passion des belles-lettres et des sciences humaines. Sa sensibilité  poétique, incandescente, nourrissait également sa curiosité insatiable des enjeux théoriques de la science politique. Sa passion de la création poétique, son interrogation exigeante des divers ordres de la connaissance et du savoir, l'ont conduit à l'exercice de la profession d'enseignant, d'une part, et, d'autre part, dans le cadre de l'institution universitaire, aux activités de la recherche fondamentale.

Il faut d'abord, pour saisir dans leur cohérence les démarches successives de Jean-Michel Cusset, recommencer par le commencement : ses écrits poétiques sont la base d'appui de la théorie générale de la culture qu'il ambitionnait d'élaborer. Disciple du "Prince des Poètes" marie-galantais,  Guy Tirolien, dont il s'est avec ferveur réclamé, Jean-Michel Cusset a publié des recueils de poèmes qu'il faudra désormais lire ou relire avec la plus haute considération.
Soit, chronologiquement, les trois recueils intitulés :
-"Lettre à l'absente"(1998)
-"Poème pour un siècle nouveau"(2000)
-"Le sixième siècle"(2004)
- recueils auxquels il faut rattacher le poème dramatique "1802 ou Le dernier jour".

Dans l'ordre des travaux de recherche et d'analyse relevant de la théorie de la production sociale et des sciences de la culture, Jean-Michel Cusset est l'auteur d'une thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2013, à l'Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Pôle de Guadeloupe, thèse ayant pour objet d'investigation l'identité culturelle et politique des Amériques.
Les contributions qu'il a dès lors fournies, sous forme d'articles ou de communications présentées à l'occasion de colloques ou de congrès, ont alternativement concerné les champs thématiques suivants :
- les codes religieux de l'identité culturelle en Guadeloupe
- les codes de l'identité culturelle de la Caraïbe
- l'efficience des politiques publiques locales, le cas de la Guadeloupe
- identités en mouvement, l'invention des Amériques postmodernes ou la transmigration.

Quand il s'est su, hélas, condamné, Jean-Michel Cusset a dédié ses ultimes énergies à l'achèvement d'un ouvrage intitulé "L'identité narrative de la Caraïbe (Semiosis 1)", ouvrage érudit, riche d'intuition qui aménagent une synthèse dynamique des productions culturelles et artistiques Caribéennes.

L'hommage qui lui est ici justement rendu est à la mesure d'une perte dont nous sommes inconsolables.
"Mementote", dans l'au-delà, souviens-toi, Jean-Michel, tu ne marcheras pas seul, nous ne t'oublierons pas.

Pointe-à-Pitre, 28 septembre 2015,



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