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Omeros Paperback – June 1, 1992
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Creating an epic poem based on Homer and Odysseus seems a risky proposition for a modern poet, but Derek Walcott accomplishes the feat with stunning results in Omeros. The title, which is Homer's name in Greek, nods to the wandering and exile of the great poet himself, who learned and suffered while traveling. From there, Walcott takes off to "see the cities of many men and to know their minds." After an exhilarating exploration of tremendous proportions, we learn of the past and the present and ride along the rhythm of the words of Walcott in this amazing text.
From Publishers Weekly
This magnificent modern epic by poet-playwright Walcott ( The Arkansas Testament ) follows the wanderings of a present-day Odysseus and the inconsolable sufferings of those who are displaced and traveling with trepidation toward their homes. Written in seven circling books and magically fluid tercets, the poem illuminates the classical past and its motifs through an extraordinary cast of contemporary characters from the island of Santa Lucia: humble fishermen Achilles, Philoctete and Hector; a feverishly beautiful house servant, Helen, who incites her own Trojan War; a local seer, Seven Seas; and the narrator himself, who wanders to the States, to Europe and back again although he knows, "the nearer home, the deeper our fears increase, / that no house might come to meet us on our own shore." Singularly ambitious, and as moving as the works of its namesake, Omeros (Greek for "Homer") remains accessible despite its complexity and divergent strains, which include the privations of Native Americans, African natives and exiled English colonials.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
And what does he evoke? First and foremost, the people and landscape of his native Caribbean island of St. Lucia. The watercolor on the cover, as though by a tropical Winslow Homer, is in fact by the poet himself. Google his paintings and you will see his extraordinary eye for character and color, qualities that shine equally clearly through his words. Omeros is the Greek spelling of Homer, and on one level the poem is a West Indies version of the Iliad, with two fishermen, Achille and Hector, fighting over the beauty of a local Helen, housemaid to a British expatriate couple. The poem begins in epic fashion with the building and naming of boats, and there are other Homeric allusions throughout its seven long sections. But much of its strength comes from the fact that it does not translate the Iliad into a petty local soap opera, but rather starts from the reality of people and a place that Walcott knows well, and elevates it by evoking a classical ancestry.
Furthermore, this story is only the armature around which many other histories may be spun. Some are stories of conflict, such as the great naval Battle of the Saints, fought between the British and the French in 1792 in the waters around the islands. One of the midshipmen in that battle may have been a distant relative of Major Plunkett, the retired soldier who has lived on the island for many years with his Irish wife Maud, employers of the beautiful Helen; the Major's own experiences in India and in the Western Desert are another part of the narrative. There is also St. Lucia's history as one of the points of arrival at the end of the Middle Passage in the slave trade, and in one of the most striking sections Achille is led by a flying sea-swift back in space and time to rejoin his own ancestors in their river village in West Africa. Other sections of the poem deal with the exile, starvation, and massacre of the plains Indians in the 19th century, as seen through the eyes of contemporary activist and fellow artist Catherine Weldon. And behind all that is Walcott's lament for the loss of the original native inhabitants of the islands, the Aruac peoples.
Though epic in structure and content, this is also a very personal poem. Walcott himself appears as a figure in it, in settings as diverse as Brookline, Massachusetts (where he wrote much of it), and cities such as Lisbon, Istanbul, London, and Dublin. He portrays himself as wounded in love, mourning his own lost Helen, and trying to understand his own biracial heritage and spiritual relationship to a father he hardly knew; it is not coincidental that the Wikipedia article on the poet includes a photograph of President Obama carrying one of Walcott's books. In the beautiful final section of the book, Homer himself takes the poet by the hand and leads him through the ashes of a volcano, like Virgil escorting Dante through the Inferno. Somehow all the many themes of the book get gathered into one, and three millennia of love and conflict, loss and inspiration, come together in this one place at this one time and in the mind of this one man.
[For a note on the verse, see the first comment.]
Also I got a hard copy when I ordered a paperback, which was a wonderful surprise.