OH STARRY STARRY NIGHT!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Our very own No­bel win­ner and a renowned, world’s high­est paid painter put on an un­for­get­table free show. Let’s all say thanks and Merry Christ­mas to our Sir Derek Wal­cott and Peter Doig!

Derek Wal­cott is hardly the un­stop­pable whirl­wind he used to be when he wrote Omeros and was awarded the No­bel in uni­ver­sal recog­ni­tion of his lit­er­ary ge­nius—but then who among us can truth­fully say we are to­day as ac­tive as we used to be back in 1992? Which is not to sug­gest our most fa­mous na­tive son no longer writes, paints, and holds pri­vate lit­er­a­ture classes for a lucky few. Nei­ther has he cur­tailed his peri­patetic ways, one might add. Wal­cott con­tin­ues to ac­cept in­vi­ta­tions to art-re­lated events all over the world, as dif­fi­cult as air travel has be­come even for the most able bod­ied. No sur­prise, there­fore, that he in­sisted on at­tend­ing—de­spite feel­ing a bit un­der the weather—last Satur­day’s launch­ing of his lat­est work Morn­ing Paramin, pro­duced in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Scots­man Peter Doig, the renowned, world’s high­est-paid liv­ing artist now based with his fam­ily in Trinidad.

Never mind this is the sea­son nor­mally re­served for egre­giously ir­ra­tional ex­u­ber­ance, with sev­eral Derek Wal­cott afi­ciona­dos forced in the name of duty to at­tend a nearby ARC-re­lated an­nual event, many chose not to miss the once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity to wit­ness first­hand the revered painter Doig (two of his pieces have sold at auc­tion for over US$10 mil­lion!) and our own No­bel win­ner at once shar­ing the same stage. The cho­sen venue was ‘the Yard’, fast be­com­ing the launch­ing pad for all things lit­er­ary and cul­tural. Lo­cal poet and sen­a­tor Adrian Augier and STAR Pub­lish­ing’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mae Wayne pro­duced the event.

In con­spic­u­ous at­ten­dance were the na­tion’s prime min­is­ter Allen Chastanet, his some­what reclu­sive but highly pop­u­lar wife Raquel, and the PM’s beam­ing father Michael—a long-time close friend of the No­bel win­ner— who was among the first to take his seat. Daugh­ter Fe­olla, smil­ing from ear to there, also ar­rived early, as did the am­bas­sadors of Brazil and Venezuela, Ser­gio Couri and Leif Escalona, both ma­jor Wal­cott ad­mir­ers. In his un­avoid­able ab­sence the Tai­wanese am­bas­sador was rep­re­sented by em­bassy of­fi­cial Ed­ward Tao.

Au­thor McDon­ald Dixon, long-time fan and ac­knowl­edged student of Derek Wal­cott, sat with me in the sec­ond row of seats while a few feet away OCM Bo­cas win­ner Vladimir Lu­cien sucked in the at­mos­phere. Richard Peterkin left his wife’s side sev­eral times (I took note!) to com­pete with sev­eral pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers, in­clud­ing the STAR’s David Pas­cal. Peterkin’s pho­tographs (quite im­pres­sive, it turns out) un­doubt­edly were first to make it to Fake­book (edi­tor, please re­sist cor­rect­ing my spell­ing on this oc­ca­sion; it’s cal­cu­lated!), with ac­com­pa­ny­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic com­ments by the so­cial com­men­ta­tor!

Spon­sors in­cluded Courts, CPJ St. Lu­cia Lim­ited, San­dals, Land­mark Events and STAR Pub­lish­ing Co. Lo­cal poet Robert Lee in­tro­duced the on­stage art su­per­stars. The evening would not be with­out its heart-stopping mo­ments—and not for the rea­son you might think—es­pe­cially for those of us who were privy to the su­per-hu­man ef­fort the ail­ing 86-year-old Wal­cott had made not to dis­ap­point his au­di­ence, as if in­deed that were pos­si­ble. He read his first poem from Morn­ing, Paramin and then, just be­fore the end, stopped to say he was hav­ing a lit­tle trou­ble with his con­cen­tra­tion. The an­nounce­ment was greeted with en­cour­ag­ing ap­plause from the ob­vi­ously em­pa­thetic crowd. And then Wal­cott di­rected Doig to take over. Some­how the two giants man­aged to make light of what was for some of us quite wor­ry­ing. Doig smiled broadly then started read­ing. Some­times he laughed out loud, re­gal­ing their au­di­ence. Not un­til all the cho­sen po­ems had been de­liv­ered, to ec­static re­sponse, did it ap­pear Wal­cott was in need of med­i­cal as­sis­tance. The au­di­ence stayed back for sev­eral hours af­ter he had been driven away. It soon turned out there was noth­ing about which to be par­tic­u­larly con­cerned. But how heroic of our No­bel win­ner to have at­tended though not feel­ing well, and to have sat through the launch­ing to its con­clu­sion.

Wal­cott and Doig had ear­lier au­to­graphed sev­eral pre­paid copies of Morn­ing, Paramin. In the poet’s ab­sence, while some fans or­dered dish af­ter de­li­cious dish and glass af­ter bub­bly glass from Sab­rina’s Café at ‘the Yard’, oth­ers lined up to pur­chase and have their books signed by Doig. All this to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of music per­formed by Ma­mai La Caye. Fi­nally, a great evening was had by all who made the ef­fort to be present at the, yes, his­toric, event—about which many will in due course brag.

By Peter Doig’s ac­count he had al­ready sealed a deal with a lit­er­ary agent in Lon­don who wished to pub­lish a book of his paint­ings with ac­com­pa­ny­ing text by an uniden­ti­fied well­known au­thor. But that was

be­fore the in-de­mand artist had en­coun­tered Derek Wal­cott. As Doig told it on Satur­day evening, his and Wal­cott’s daugh­ters were friends and neigh­bors in Trinidad’s Paramin Val­ley. Even though Wal­cott of­ten vis­ited, the two men had never met. But meet they did the last time Wal­cott was in Trinidad, on which oc­ca­sion they ex­pressed mu­tual high regard for each other’s work. Not long af­ter­ward, his pub­lish­ers in­formed Doig they’d had a change of heart and now were no longer keen on their ear­lier cho­sen col­lab­o­ra­tor. The writer they now wanted was Derek Wal­cott. At which point, Doig re­called while Wal­cott lis­tened in si­lence, “I said, ‘Oh, what a co­in­ci­dence. I met him for the first time just the other day.’”

More dis­cus­sions fol­lowed. Doig in­vited Derek Wal­cott and his con­stant com­pan­ion Si­grid to Mon­treal, where the artist’s work was on ex­hi­bi­tion. More talks en­sued that re­sulted in Morn­ing, Paramin— and last Satur­day’s un­for­get­table sev­eral ex­cit­ing hours at ‘the Yard’. A few copies re­main avail­able, just in case those who did not at­tend the launch wish to make up for what they missed. Be­sides, I can think of no bet­ter Christ­mas gift!

Not with­out good rea­son the Wall Street Jour­nal re­cently re­ferred to Morn­ing, Paramin as “dou­ble-bar­reled magic,” a book wherein “a renowned painter and No­bel-win­ning poet med­i­tate the dif­fi­cult beauty of the Caribbean.” More­over that Wal­cott and Doig’s “re­spec­tive en­deav­ors have much in com­mon . . . Both men are world trav­el­ers, and their vis­ual and lit­er­ary jour­ney here takes the reader from snowy north­ern land­scapes to steamy jun­gles and trop­i­cal beaches.”

As I say, some­thing to im­merse your­selves in over the hol­i­days; some­thing worth shar­ing with loved ones, while you still have the op­por­tu­nity proudly to own the autograph of one of our two No­bel lau­re­ates!

A per­sonal foot­note: I for­got to ask and now I con­tinue to won­der if Good Morn­ing, Viet­nam, star­ring Robin Wil­liams (de­ceased) may have in­spired the ti­tle Morn­ing, Paramin.

The night’s big su­per­stars: No­bel lau­re­ate Derek Wal­cott (left) and cel­e­brated Painter Peter Doig.

Peter Doig and ‘Bat­man’.

PM Allen Chastanet and fam­ily with Mae.

One for the al­bum!

CPJ rep­re­sen­ta­tive with event pro­ducer Mae Wayne.

Au­thor Vladimir Lu­cien (right) and friend.

Richard Peterkin and wife Dag­mar.

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