Morn­ing, Paramin Derek Wal­cott and Peter Doig

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BOOK REVIEW - By Claudia Elei­box

Ad­mit­tedly I am sim­ply a maiden who has merely frol­icked in the works of lit­er­a­ture and art. To have been asked to re­view the work of two ge­niuses in their fields is truly a hum­bling and ed­i­fy­ing op­por­tu­nity. The re­sult is just my fee­ble at­tempt to de­ci­pher the codes of these artists’ in­tro­spec­tion.

Last Satur­day I was hon­oured to wit­ness worl­drenowned artists - our own Sir Derek Wal­cott and the fig­u­ra­tive artist Peter Doig - in lit­er­ary ac­tion. My di­rect in­volve­ment in the event no doubt made me even more ap­pre­cia­tive of the book, but the launch of Morn­ing, Paramin gave read­ers, sup­port­ers and other artists a glimpse of the am­bi­ence that Derek and Peter have cre­ated.

The two sat side-by-side, ex­press­ing the fruits of what I imag­ine had been end­less years of hard work in stu­dios and in the com­pany of muses. As beau­ti­ful as it was to see Derek hold­ing on to what he has al­ways loved, and Peter recit­ing pa­tois words, it was only a taste of the col­lec­tion.

Morn­ing, Paramin is the seem­ingly ef­fort­less re­ply of rhyth­mic poetry to ec­cen­tric paint­ings. I have no idea of the process of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, but not a trace of mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion is ev­i­dent. Their souls have in­ter­twined to cre­ate a mas­ter­piece.

The ti­tle seems to be an in­for­mal greet­ing to a place they regard as utopian while the word “Paramin” re­mains a mys­tery but a com­fort in the verse: “The name said by it­self could make us laugh as if some deep, deep se­cret was hid­den in there.”

Derek’s poetry gen­tly sways to and fro be­tween the mem­o­ries of his and Peter’s life whilst ref­er­enc­ing great writ­ers and iconic painters through­out time and place, like Con­rad, Brod­sky, Pi­casso and An­ton Chekhov.

He im­plies his wel­com­ing of Peter to his home­land, the mo­ments they’ve shared be­fore as well as the times they spent away and not know­ing each other.

Both artists, with a solemn charm, weave a thread of loss into their work: the pass­ing of Peter’s wife, Mar­garet, and the loss of Derek’s friends, like Robert De­vaux, who he di­rectly men­tions.

Im­agery from na­ture is re­peated in the poetry and paint­ings with ap­pear­ances of vul­tures, lions, pel­i­cans and land­scapes of Saint Lu­cia, Canada and Trinidad where Peter now re­sides. By us­ing witty al­lit­er­a­tions and metaphors to high­light rich his­tory or to make com­par­isons to other cul­tures, Derek casts a spot­light of dou­ble en­ten­dre on each of Peter’s paint­ings. He uses con­tin­u­ous jux­ta­po­si­tion of snow and the Caribbean’s warm wa­ters with rhythm and rhyme to bring the brush strokes to life. Af­ter read­ing Morn­ing, Paramin with some help and re­search, I can­not fathom Derek with­out Peter or those paint­ings with­out their ac­com­pa­ny­ing words. I heard Peter speak of his fond­ness of Derek but not the other way round; I didn’t need to be­cause Derek’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Peter and his paint­ing is re­vealed in the poetry. In “The Tanker” he wrote: “Beauty with­out speech is what great paint­ing is.”

That is what Morn­ing, Paramin is: great paint­ing and great lit­er­a­ture.

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