Casting at the castaway

I’ve been trawling the web for reviews of Walcott and just to see whether there was any new poetry by him, despite him having intimated in The Prodigal (2005) that that would be his last book. It had slipped my mind that it was his 78th birthday on 23 January.

Edward Byrne, of One Poet’s Notes and editor of the Valparaiso Poetry Review (Indiana, US) has noted Walcott’s birthday with an overview of the poet’s career. There is also a review of The Prodigal, which has refreshed my interest in and obsession with Walcott, brought home by the flashes of quotation from Byrne’s post. Unlike Mary Jo Slater, who finds The Prodigal structurally weak, Byrne is far more in tune with the book-length poem, finding a structure that gravitates, among other things, around the death of Roderick Walcott, the poet’s twin.

For those looking for an introduction to Walcott’s poetry, there is a new Selected Poetry by Walcott, edited by Edward Baugh and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2007), superceding in depth that abysmal 1981 Heinemann selection by Wayne Brown and, naturally, going beyond Collected Poems: 1948-1984 (1986), which ends with a selection from Midsummer (1984). For the new Selected Poetry Baugh will have had The Arkansas Testament (1987), Omeros (1990), The Bounty (1997), Tiepolo’s Hound (2000) and The Prodigal (2005) from which to draw.

If Walcott has indeed stopped writing poetry, perhaps 2010, his 80th year, might be an appropriate year to publish a new volume of collected poetry, including every single published poem from 25 Poems (1948, self-published when Walcott was 18 years old) up to and including The Prodigal. A nice companion would be a volume of collected plays.

Well, at least that is what I would like, so that I can fill out the gaps in Collected Poems, which is a selection by Walcott himself. The single volumes from which these selections are drawn are now out of print (this is what I infer from the websites of Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US and Faber & Faber in England) and difficult to come by. Walcott’s earlier books are also now collector’s items and go for record prices: GBP 19.00 for Midsummer, GBP 37.00 for The Arkansas Testament, and, for The Star-Apple Kingdom… GBP 99.00!

The cynic in me naturally believes that no such comprehensive volume may be in the offing until after Walcott has shuffled off to the great whelk-gathering in the sky, when a Complete Works proper can be assembled at handsome profit perhaps to publishers.


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