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White Egrets: Poems Paperback – March 15, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From Nobel Prize–winner Walcott comes a 14th collection of poems, richly textured in sound and image, and spanning many countries and memories. From his native Caribbean to Italy, Spain, England, the Netherlands, and the United States, Walcott meditates on the passage of time, fallen empires, bygone love affairs, and mortality. Throughout, in metrically complex verses, he writes about the vocation of the poet with a virtuosic ear and a painterly eye (Walcott is also an accomplished watercolor and oil painter): my craft and my craft's thought make parallels/ from every object, the word and the shadow of the word/ makes a thing both itself and something else/ til we are metaphors and not ourselves/ in an empirical language that keeps growing. Walcott describes a wistful search for home in these poems—Silly to think of heritage when there isn't much, he writes—while also expressing deep joy and thanks that he finds his true and permanent home in poetry. This is poetry's weather, he says of a rainy day in Venice, a lovely moment in a beautiful book. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Long, lush, yet battering poems that surge and retract and return like the sea, like breath, are Nobel laureate Walcott’s forte. In his fourteenth collection, he curves this grand form away from the epic and toward the personal, examining the ruins of love and the puzzles of age as he enters his eightieth year. The title poem, punctuated by “stalking egrets” and “clattering parrots” and revved by a tree-tossing storm, is part elegy and part rhapsody and includes this artist’s credo: “The perpetual ideal is astonishment.” That is the state of being Walcott summons as he takes measure of yearning, regrets, and resistance to turmoil, reveling, instead, in the exaltation of earth, sky, and ocean as birds embody feelings and poetry itself. In gorgeous evocations of place––Sicily, Spain, Italy, London, New York, Amsterdam––Walcott writes of the “nausea of absence,” then rejects despair in a startling moment of connection, addressing, “You, my dearest friend, Reader.” His tropes swoop in like birds returning to roost, winged words in jazzy riffs that lift and plunge, flashing light and shadow as Walcott, a not-unscarred literary warrior reports, “I have kept the same furies.” And, looking ahead, “So much to do still, all of it praise.” --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532703
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Renato Baserga on May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Derek Walcott is one of the finest poets of the last 50 years. His command of the English language is astonishing (hawks sitting on the wrist of a branch), his images are unforgettable (the heart that returns like the waves splashing against the rocks), his touches are heart-breaking. There are influences of a European culture that has now gone beyond the English culture so dear to Walcott. His waves' image reminds me of Rebora at his best (E giunge l'onda, ma non giunge il mare...). White Egrets is not a book you should devour. It is a book one should read slowly, one poem each night, to savour and to remuginate about. It is the book of an old poet who has made peace with his troubled soul and finally accepts his life for whatever it has been. It reminds me of what one of my teachers used to say, that God gave us memories so the we may have roses in December. Walcott has egrets, white egrets.....
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I adore Derek Walcott. This book requires rereading to understand, and STILL is more veiled and subtle than his previous books.This is a poignant and touching goodbye to the world as he experienced it. He's old, he's ill, he's waiting for death, and he is grieving the loss of a relationship.
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Walcott is now 80 and while this may not be last verse we get from him, it is unlikely there will be much more to come. These short poems are uniformly excellent to outstanding and display many of Walcott's greatest qualities. The powerful imagery, his superb ability to evoke landscapes, his deep knowledge of the Western canon, and the often striking combination of nature imagery and psychological insight. Many of Walcott's favorite themes recur in these poems. His love of his native St. Lucia, the nature of colonialism, the power of the Western canon, and the glories of landscapes. Added to these themes are some strongly elegiac elements including several memorial poems for old friends and meditations on aging and approaching mortality. The image of white egrets recurs in several poems, used to denote permanent features of the natural world but also symbolic of language and art. Different readers will have different favorites. There is a particularly powerful poem dedicated to President Obama, an incredible compliment for a politician. The final poem in this book is a gentle and remarkably evocative meditation on mortality, the nature of art, and Walcott's love for St. Lucia. A just conclusion.
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if you ask me to name my favorite poet, without hestitation i would answer derek walcott. any collection of poems by walcott is reason for a personal celebration, White Egrets no less, and in my enthusiasm i would hope that you find in the poems in this book by mr walcott at least some of the pleasure that i do.

when speaking of poetry, there's always talk of the line. one from White Egrets chosen at random:

`hide her face in mist and the barred sun shrivel'

i remove my finger from the page and look up and see the line is from the poem, Epithalamium: The Rainy Season. an epithalamium is a wedding song, and the poem was written `For Stephanos and Heather', a couple who means nothing to me, but who must be very special to mr walcott for him to dedicate a poem to them. their wedding in a rainy season is captured in the one line i selected at random; the mist become veil and the sun shrivel the appearance as the folds created by the drape of the veil, as well as being an allusion to a shakespearean sonnet. any line by walcott would reveal as many gifts. as a reader i am honored to be recipient of his poems, several of them, like White Egrets, for and in memory of his friends, like the joseph of white egrets, his good friend and fellow nobel laureate holder, joseph brodsky.
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Evocative details create wondrous images in this fine book of poetry. The work is reminiscent of the poems of Wallace Stevens in the sensual detail and in the stoicism but somehow warmer and more affirming.
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This is one of the more delightful poetry I have read in a while. Derek Walcott is a master of language, landscapes and lives and his poems explore the intertwining of the eternal with the ephemeral as seen in his rear view mirror at 80.
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Derek Walcott is a poet of excellence. I have read everything he has written, over and over and over. This new little volume delights me. I have read it over and over in the few weeks I've had it. Anyone who enjoys poetry, knows Walcott.
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Perhaps, because I looked so hard through the slapping growth
(for like and kind). Maybe it's caused by any growth made while
the slaps were sent, received, that a sense of the sort
beyond greatness in the work of this very fallible is met.
Mind these not. From your sitting stand, read and decide.
But for me, reading Mr. Walcott here in his humble (however got)
honest, has set revelation lengths ahead of ego its foe,
and caused what is post below.

DRIVING VESSEL

Be a man of projects. - Scribe Ani

In double harness, wonder a plague,
he crossed the threshold of eighty and asked,
three years back in his Sea-Change,
whether he (and at himself he laughed)
would become Superman at seventy-seven.
Body, ship of state to rend and break;
closed for repair, rest, nutrition,
and the ancient's second medicine, exercise
award greatness the wreath and dodge of attack.
Each hand captains their driving vessel,
Nestor in the cart with Diomedes at a hundred.
All who on this eye, mouth planet, walked, stooped,
hewed, and drove from before Abram through
to a fighter in New York or a diver in Japan.
`must do more than when they were young,'

I think of those two Athenians, in (their) Politeias
who quote another:
"When a man no longer has to work for a living,
he should practice excellence."
"Eat less and leap more," Rabelais has
the peasant ass say to the dandy, court horse.
And my own tall sire only gave in when stranded,
garage-less in his Purgatory at eighty,
final sleep coming six to seven years on,
and still more man than many.
A superman at eighty? Life puts legs to it!

© Copyright 2010 (17 April-03 June) Joseph Duvernay
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