Morning, Paramin Derek Walcott and Peter Doig
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.