RE­MEM­BER­ING WAL­COTT

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

The Rt Hon Pa­tri­cia Scot­land QC (Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral of the Com­mon­wealth)

There is some­thing about Sir Derek Wal­cott’s po­etry. The “wind . . . ruf­fling the tawny pelt”, the “shards of an an­cient pas­toral in those shires of the is­land where the cat­tle drank their pools of shadow from an older sky”, and “the soft-scis­sored foam as the deck turn white and the moon open a cloud like a door”.

Grow­ing up in the UK, there were many oc­ca­sions when this pow­er­ful imagery trans­ported me, in­stantly, back to my birth­place in the Caribbean, to be­hold the scenery that must have in­spired his words. And as I de­fined my own iden­tity he re­minded me that “the time will come when, with ela­tion you will greet your­self ar­riv­ing at your own door, in your own mir­ror and each will smile at the other’s wel­come, and say, sit here. Eat.”

I have had the plea­sure of meet­ing Sir Derek in per­son only once, but his po­ems have had a last­ing im­pact on me, and I was deeply sad­dened to learn of the death of this bright Com­mon­wealth star. And though he has slipped be­yond our reach, his pro­found wis­dom, his bril­liance and his in­spi­ra­tion to pur­sue great­ness are im­mor­talised in the lines of pow­er­ful po­etry like which cap­tured the essence of the Caribbean and stirred hearts and minds across the globe.

Born in a small Caribbean is­land, his in­ge­nu­ity, vi­sion and pas­sion for ex­cel­lence pro­pelled him into the spot­light on the world stage and earned him the glit­ter­ing hon­our of a No­bel Prize.

Again and again I saw Sir Derek fear­lessly ad­dress­ing the is­sue of Caribbean iden­tity and chal­leng­ing the stereo­types and skewed per­cep­tions that sep­a­rate us. He once re­ferred to the earth as “one is­land in archipela­goes of stars”. So, for me, his great­est legacy is the knowl­edge that, wher­ever we are born, in a de­vel­oped or de­vel­op­ing coun­try, in a vast con­ti­nent or on a small Caribbean is­land, we have the po­ten­tial for great­ness.

This is why I would like to join with the gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia to­day to hon­our their son, and to cel­e­brate his life and the im­mense con­tri­bu­tion he has made to lit­er­a­ture. For my coun­try, Do­minica, and Saint Lu­cia are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked by his­tory, lan­guage, cul­ture, kin­ship and to­pog­ra­phy. We are truly sis­ter is­lands. In many ways Sir Derek al­ways felt as if he be­longed a lit­tle to all of us. We will re­ally miss his light.

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