This Post Is Not About Derek Walcott

English: Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize in Literat...
English: Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize in Literature 1992; picture taken at his honorary dinner, Amsterdam, May 20th 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listening to Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album from 2008.

A couple of days ago I did the real post about Derek Walcott, and read a poem of his that I liked very much. But tonight’s little post is more about those random thoughts I have, but usually don’t share when I am writing these things. Call it meta-blogging and we’ll be oh-so-trendy tonight.

My friend John at Johnbalaya  has a blog subtitle, “a Glimpse into the Brain of John.” I think it was longer before, something about the muddled mess that is John’s Brian. Something like that. So here, in honor of John who started this whole Walcott thing, I give you a look into the muddled mess that is David’s (the Dad Poet’s) Brain.

John also has a wonderful poetry blog called Poetically Versed, where among other things he often posts poetry readings and encourages others to record (video, audio, eight-track, vinyl, whatever) their own versions of the same poems, and then listen to the various versions afterwards. It’s a great way to see how other voices, personalities, souls can interpret the same piece of art. I think it’s a wonderful project, and more people should be participating. Yes, you, looking aside at that gin and tonic you just poured yourself, I mean you.

So in mid-August John posted a poem by Derek Walcott that I had never heard before, being familiar with more of his longer works, like Omeros, that PBWrites is encouraging me to plug on through–It really is a stellar piece. I’m just a bit like Edgar Allen Poe in my aversion to poetic works that take longer than thirty minutes to read. I decided to put the poem John read on my to-record list, and finally got to it two posts back. Unfortunately I missed one entire line. It wasn’t crucial, well every line in a poem is crucial, but it didn’t mess up the meaning too much, and you can read the whole poem for yourself.

Maybe before you listen to John’s or my reading though you should record the poem in your own voice, and then we can all share in the various vocal interpretations, especially if you find that the poem resonates with you, yes? And hey, yours probably won’t be missing a whole line, maybe not even a single word, and then think how smart you’ll feel!

But as the title ever-so-subtly suggests, this post is not about Derek Walcott. This is about those weird associative thoughts that enter a poetry blogger’s head while he is writing. You understand metonomy, don’t you? Well, if you don’t that’s okay, because I’m going to stretch the idea a bit, maybe into pre-metonyms. When I say tree, what do you think of? A pine tree, an oak tree, a Christmas tree or an Apple tree? Christians used to talk about Christ being hung on a tree. Obviously it wasn’t a tree, but an implement of torture made from the key components of a tree, but in the minds of Christians the tree is the cross. Similarly, sort of, the Brits say the Crown, when they really mean all that aristocratic stuff associated with royalty. Americans refer to the White House when they mean the President, or his cabinet, and so on.

Like I said, I am stretching the idea a bit. But it’s about word associations, and it’s one of the things I love about good poetry. One word to you can bring to mind many associated words and concepts, like the tree previously mentioned. Whole phrases and concepts can be that way too. For instance, the poem read by John and me was called “Love After Love.”

"Believe" by Cher
“Believe” by Cher (Photo credit: johanferreira15)

Now, be honest with me. How many of you had the same problem I had? When you read that phrase, turned it over in your head, did you hear the Voice of Cher singing, “Do you believe in Life After Love, after love, after love. . . ?” You did, didn’t you? But it’s not polite to bring up half naked, aging pop singers when you talk Nobel Literature Prize winners, is it? Oh screw that! It was a pleasant moment and it made you smile, didn’t it? And if Derek Walcott was aware of Cher’s tune, he just might have been thinking that this would happen in your head. Poets are like that, tricksy, they lay word traps, and leave associations unanswered and ambiguous, to bounce around your cerebellum.

That was the first random association with Walcott that I couldn’t shake, like an earworm, over and over in my head. The other one was from the group Vampire Weekend, a sometimes maligned (by people who don’t get the preppy joke) band who came up with their name from a college film that lead singer Ezra Koenig toyed with making back in his college days. The project was abandoned after two days, though you can view the humorous trailer to it here. It was about a young man named Walcott whose father was killed by vampires. So Walcott was off to warn the mayor of Cape Cod. . . yeah, dumb, right? But these are the weird associations from which genius and success sometimes flow, and the title of the unmade movie has worked well for the band, especially in creating this mythology around it.

Walcott, mystic seaport is that way
Don’t you know that your life could be lost?
Out of Cape Cod tonight

Walcott, don’t you know that it’s insane?
Don’t you wanna get out of Cape Cod?
Out of Cape Cod tonight?

Walcott, ‘The Bottleneck’ is a shit show
Hyannis port is a ghetto
Out of Cape Cod tonight

You can find the rest of the lyrics here, but hey, let’s just listen to the song! I sooo badly wanted this to be about Derek Walcott, but after researching it this weekend, I just cannot make that associative leap. It’s sadly just a fun little coincidence, unless Koenig, who for a short time was a middle-school English teacher wanted your head make the association. Is it a mystic seaport, or simply Mystic Seaport? Ezra isn’t talking.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Interesting, David. I’m not sure I make any such associations when I read poetry … I must be dull.

    Completely agree about John’s readings and effort to encourge reading. Great job.


    1. You are anything but dull, dear. 🙂


  2. Free association is wonderful! Sometimes it’s the only way to get stuff out of your head, and sometimes it’s more meaningful than you think…


    1. That’s a helpful and hopeful response, AT! Thank you. And you are right. I just had to get it out of my head. 🙂


  3. slpmartin says:

    An interesting discussion David…something to think about as I read poetry this week.


    1. Thanks for listening in. My brain can be a strange and scary place. 🙂


  4. John says:

    I’ll admit it … and, maybe its just a gay thing, but, the Cher song went off in my head…

    As for long poems … I struggle with those too … especially if the poem is rich in images and metaphors… I begin to forget what the whole point of the poem was. 🙂


    1. I think Walcott might have even had that in mind, if not the song, his title was at least a response to the phrase “Life after love.” And that’s probably one good way to draw us in before we even get to the poem’s text.

      Yes, I’m with you on the long poem thing. I may post some thoughts eventually on Poe’s Poetic Principal essay. I don’t hold to every thing he contends, but he makes some damn good points, and there are critics who say he was a better essayist and literature critic than he was a poet. Not sure if I agree with them there, but they might make a good case, especially if the used “The Bells” as an example. 😉 God, I hate that stupid poem.


  5. Oh my god. You wrote this post… not that surprising actually.Yeah, I couldn’t read that without thinking about Cher. It made my poetry experience a little strange.


    1. Haha, I told you I would. 🙂 And yeah, the more I think about it, Mr. Walcott probably knew we would think of that, which is why he reminded us about loving ourselves.


  6. Very fine metonymizing here, David. And long live both Cher and Derek Walcott!


    1. Haha, thank you, dear.


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