Hybridity in the poetry of Derek Walcott
Uploaded by aparnavaidhya on May 27, 2012
Derek Walcott is a Caribbean writer, playwright and Nobel Laureate from Castries, St. Lucia. On both the maternal and paternal sides of his family, he was descended from a white grandfather and black grandmother. As a young man he trained as a painter, mentored by Harold Simmons whose life as a professional artist provided an inspiring example for Walcott. Walcott started his career at the age of nineteen with his self published collection of poems “25 poems” in 1948, but he came into public profile with his collection In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962)
His initial inspiration for verse came from the sea and everything related to the sea, which began to take on a special significance. Walcott mentions that his knowledge of classical literature and history – Greek, Roman, British – was “vital and inspiring”. That, together with the African slave-tales still current on the island, led him at an early age to admire both sides of his dual heritage. His early poetry reflects the same paradox including personal and regional subject matter in verse forms highly imitative of Andrew Marvell, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Rather than denying either the island or his classical sources, he makes the choice of blending them together.
The West Indies, which had experienced a history of slavery, colonialism and alienation, was Walcott’s preferred residence and he did not feel the need to migrate to either England or the United States to become a writer, like many of his contemporaries. According to Ajanta Dutt, he was “dedicated enough to realise that he could work from within towards a creation of the Caribbean culture, by tempering the Standard English idiom used predominantly in the major cities for all forms of discourse with a creolised English incorporating various patois languages.
Hybridisation, according to Bakhtin, is a mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an ‘encounter’, within the arena of an utterance, between two different linguistic consciousnesses, “separated from one another by an epoch, by social differentiation, or by some other factor”. When Robinson Crusoe encounters the criolos whom he names Friday, he teaches him English, the words of God, and above all the basics of humanity. He has “driven him out of utter darkness to overwhelming whitening light”. Doing so he created a ‘mimic man’; for Friday can only ‘mimic’ his white Master’s culture, but never be...