DEREK WALCOTT TAKES ON C.D. WRIGHT IN MORE MIDWEST/SOUTH PLAY

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C.D. Wright has 3 poems in Dove’s anthology—Jorie Graham, Marie Howe, Carolyn Forche, James Tate have one.

No. 2 Seed Derek Walcott has a Nobel Prize, has 7 pages in the Dove anthology, and is favored to win his First Round battle with no. 15 C.D. Wright.

Taking the court is Walcott’s much-anthologized “Sea Grapes:”

Sea Grapes

That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean

for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband’s

longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is
like adulterer hearing Nausicaa’s name
in every gull’s outcry.

This brings nobody peace.  The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility
will never finish and has been the same

for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore
now wriggling on his sandals to walk home,
since Troy sighed its last flame,

and the blind giant’s boulder heaved the trough
from whose groundswell the great hexameters come
to the conclusions of exhausted surf.

The classics can console. But not enough.

Poe accused Longfellow of being didactic, but Walcott is even worse:

“the ancient war between obsession and responsibility will never finish”

“the classics can console, but not enough.”

None can deny the truth of these statements, but that’s the problem.

“the great hexameters come to the conclusions of exhausted surf” invokes the sound of the surf.  Nicely done.

But why is the surf “exhausted?”  The classics may not console, but they don’t allow “surf” to be “exhausted.”  These partial attempts to be classical always fail.  Why don’t we see this?  And the “irony” of being “modern” is really no longer an excuse.

As for C.D. Wright, this entry from Dove’s anthology sounds like the poet was stoned when she wrote the poem:

In recent months I have become intent on seizing happiness: to this end I applied various shades of blue: only the evening is outside us now propagating honeysuckle: I am trying to invent a new way of moving under my dress: the room squares off against this: watch the water glitter with excitement: when we cut below the silver skin of the surface the center retains its fluidity: do I still remind you of a locust clinging to a branch: I give you an idea of the damages: you would let edges be edges: believe me: when their eyes poured over your long body of poetry I also was there: when they lay their hands on your glass shade I also was there: when they put their whole trust in your grace I had to step outside to get away from my cravenness: we have done these things to one another without benefit of a mirror: unlike the honeysuckle goodness does not overtake us: yet the thigh keeps quiet under nylon: later beneath the blueness of trees the future falls out of place: something always happens: draw nearer my dear: never fear: the world spins nightly toward brightness and we are on it.

Walcott 91, Wright 47

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6 Comments

  1. Fauna said,

    March 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Yawn.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 27, 2012 at 1:44 am

      cover your mouth!

  2. The Old Man said,

    March 27, 2012 at 1:03 am

    After slamming Wolcott for his weaknesses, you give him too many points.
    I think his poem turns Odysseus into a Puritain pirate. Oye – – in Greek.
    Wright’s thing is a PROSE POEM. With considerable wit she poses images and metaphors of attempt, trial, and misguided yearning.
    The poem never gets made, but the prose throws out dazzling
    poetic flights.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 27, 2012 at 1:45 am

      Since when did PROSE POEM become an excuse?

      • drew said,

        December 26, 2013 at 11:59 pm

        Ha ha ha I love this comment!
        There are a lot of sorry excuses out there that we are supposed to bow down to and extol… just because the scribe has a PHD and teaches creative writing somewhere…

  3. Brent said,

    March 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

    After reading Sea Grapes several times its stiffness became more interesting, I s’pose.


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