23 minutes ago
Thursday, September 06, 2018
Poetry Friday: Unimportantly Beautiful
Tuesday's photo prompt (here's some more information about my daily photo habit) was "With Manual Focus," and, after looking up how to focus my camera manually, I took the above photo With Manual Focus. It depicts a straw angel which I bought in a shop in Jacmel. I bought it because the owner of the shop said the proceeds would benefit a program for nursing mothers, and also because I love it. It sits on a shelf in my bedroom in front of a row of poetry books. As I looked at the photo appreciatively this morning, my eye was drawn to that Derek Walcott book right behind the angel. Her wing hides the end of his name. I decided that this morning was the perfect time to take the book down and read some Derek Walcott, since someone else is dealing with my students at this moment, and I am here in the quiet of my room.
In this poem from part 4 of "The Prodigal," Walcott is visiting Italy.
I wanted to be able to write: "There is nothing like it,
to walk down the Via Veneto before sunrise."
And now, you think: he is going to describe it.
I am going to describe the benediction of June,
the grey cool spring air, its ages at prima luce,
too early for coffee from the hotel
and from the locked grids of last night's cafés....
He's up so early because of jet-lag, and he's taking advantage of the morning to walk and observe, reflecting on the similarities of the scene with his home village, Gros Islet, when he himself gets observed.
...a man came out and examined me
as I copied the name down, a bald young man
in an orange windbreaker who scowled
because of my colour and the terrorists,
and because my village was unimportantly beautiful
unlike his city and the Via Veneto.
I lived in two villages: Greenwich and Gros Islet,
and loved both almost equally. One had the sea,
grey morning light along the waking water,
the other a great river, and if they asked
what country I was from I'd say, "The light
of that tree-lined sunrise down the Via Veneto."
I love the way Walcott has captured the combination of feelings: delight in his surroundings, a sense of not belonging, insecurity about where he comes from (so unimportantly beautiful, his Gros Islet), and complete assurance that he does belong. That light of that morning is his own country, whether his passport would acknowledge it or not.
Imagine if you asked someone what country he was from, and he launched into a description of the "tree-lined sunrise" as though writing an impromptu "Where I'm From" poem. I can't decide if that would be irritating or endearing. But I do know that I enjoyed reading Walcott in my "unimportantly beautiful" room, with sunlight streaming in my windows, and the calm assurance that my students were all right with a sub. Perhaps there was a slight leftover of my nighttime cold medication adding to the sense of peace; there was definitely the fuzzy brain of a cold. Tomorrow I will deal with the inevitable pile of papers I'll have to read when I head back to school. For today, I'm from the light of my room on this goat-lined street of Port-au-Prince, with the fans droning and the stack of tissues by my bed and a book of poetry clutched in my hot little hands.
Carol has this week's roundup.