Bounty

Overview

The Bounty was the first book of poems Walcott published after winning the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature. Opening with the title poem, a memorable elegy to the poet's mother, the book features a haunting series of poems that evoke Walcott's native ground, the island of St. Lucia. "For almost forty years his throbbing and relentless lines kept arriving in the English language like tidal waves," Walcott's great contemporary Joseph Brodsky once observed. "He gives us more than himself or 'a world'; he gives us a ...

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Overview

The Bounty was the first book of poems Walcott published after winning the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature. Opening with the title poem, a memorable elegy to the poet's mother, the book features a haunting series of poems that evoke Walcott's native ground, the island of St. Lucia. "For almost forty years his throbbing and relentless lines kept arriving in the English language like tidal waves," Walcott's great contemporary Joseph Brodsky once observed. "He gives us more than himself or 'a world'; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Walcott is a master of . . . easy, careless abundance."—William Logan, The New York Times Book Review

"A prime aged Porterhouse steak, four times as thick as this slim volume, [could] not match the rich density of this new collection, the Nobel laureate's first since his epic Omeros. Walcott's lines are marbled with imagery worth savoring on the tongue before swallowing: 'burnt sheaves of tall corn / shriven and bearded in chorus.' He forges a connection between the human heart and the earth that is reminiscent of the best Irish poetry. But the potatoes are supplanted by breadfruit, and the ache of a farmer's sacrifice to a historic land is replaced by a frequent flyer's knowledge that the soil of Poland and Parang, Spain and Boston, can all bury the bodies of loved ones or grow rich and dark with memory."—Publishers Weekly

"Walcott has moved with gradually deepening confidence to find his own poetic domain, independent of the tradition he inherited yet not altogether orphaned from it . . . The Walcott line is still sponsored by Shakespeare and the Bible, happy to surprise by fine excess. It can be incantatory and self-entrancing . . . It can be athletic and demotic . . . It can compel us with the almost hydraulic drag of its words."—Seamus Heaney

"[This is] Walcott's first collection of poems since he won the Nobel in 1992 . . . All the master's gifts are prodigally displayed here: an ear that finds liquid music in 'fast water quarrelling over clear stones,' a wit that sees death—the state of wordlessness—as 'beyond declension,' and an attentiveness that [notes how] squirrels 'spring up like questions' . . . Images keep recurring, crisscrossing, gaining new associations in verses that have the noble radiance of stained glass, grave but full of light. In his twilight hours, the poet often berates himself for not having hymned [his native island of] St. Lucia as he should. In the end, however, he realizes that what has sustained him all along are the 'immortelle' and 'wild mammy-apple' of his 'generous Eden.' As the waves of his melodious argument wash up at last on the shores of thanksgiving and affirmation, one realizes that there is no more serious, or more sonorous, writer living."—Pico Iyer, Time

William Logan
Walcott is a master of...easy, careless abundance. -- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A prime aged Porterhouse steak, four times as thick as this slim volume and served with butter and pt, would not match the rich density of this new collection, the Nobel laureate's first since his epic Omeros. Walcott's lines are marbled with imagery worth savoring on the tongue before swallowing: "burnt sheaves of tall corn/ shriven and bearded in chorus." He forges a connection between the human heart and the earth that is reminiscent of the best Irish poetry. But the potatoes are supplanted by breadfruit, and the ache of a farmer's sacrifice to a historic land is replaced by a frequent flyer's knowledge that the soil of Poland and Parang, Spain and Boston, can all bury the bodies of loved ones or grow rich and dark with memory. In "Italian Eclogues," he makes Italy an occasion for an elegy for Joseph Brodsky: "...these cropped fields are/ your stubble grating my cheeks with departure,/ grey irises, your corn-wisps of hair blowing away." It is Walcott's home turf of St. Lucia that is the setting for his wondrous title poem, in which he grieves the loss of his mother, rages in anger that his only weapon against death is his pen: "and the fire in these tinder-dry lines of this poem I hate/ as much as I love her." In that poem he strikes a foxy metaphor when he describes the line of poetry as a line of black ants, delicate words that tread the page and combine to move mountains. "I behold their industry and they are giants," he writes of the antsaccurately expressing the admiration readers will feel for his words. (June)
Library Journal
This volume is Nobel Prize winner Walcott's first since the widely lauded Omeros (Farrar, 1990), and perhaps his best since the outstanding Midsummer (LJ 1/84). Here, in the long title poem, he salutes the memory of his mother, whose "lessons" allowed him "to write of the light's bounty on familiar things." The remainder of the book is given to expertly turned meditations on love, history, memory, and reading. Walcott never succumbs to the poet's fondness for travelog or book report; the unquiet mind that unifies these poems makes them continuous parts of one of the greatest poetic achievements of our century. In an age of demotic and bare poetry, he is insistent upon eloquence and even sublimity; his "great themes of exaltation" find form in Dante's terza rima and brilliantly oblique slant rhyme. Walcott, who divides his time between Trinidad and Boston, has long given passionate expression to "the heart's salt history"for him, the uneasy reconciliation of the dazzling Caribbean with the cooler comforts of Western culture. Here, with poignant strangeness, he finds his rest beyond even poetry, in "that elate dissolution which goes beyond happiness." Essential.Graham Christian, Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Albert Mobilio
Derek Walcott is generally called a lyrical poet, and surely he is. His plushly turned evocations of Caribbean flora and fauna make vivid panoramas, or conveniently sized postcards:

The mango trees serenely rust when they are in flower, nobody knows the name for that voluble cedar whose bell-flowers fall, the pomme-arac purples its floor.

Yet this lyric touch too often serves predictable feelings -- his work is elegiac and earnestly political -- that could withstand at least some small lashing of cynical wit. That was the Restoration's poetic marriage -- lovely lyric and bilious barb -- but Nobel Laureate Walcott seems too intent on giving good account of himself and his island home. Like several of its preceding volumes, The Bounty is a decent collection of well-meaning poems that lack both a necessary spark as well as a perverse, yet no less necessary, will to extinguish that spark.

At bottom, amid the rich descriptions and biblical allusions, Walcott's poems high-mindedly aim to give voice to the collective unconscious of the race. "[W]e have no solace but utterance," he decrees in the book's title poem, an elegy for his mother, "hence this wild cry." This familiar, upbeat ideological program is sounded throughout the book, in which the notion that redemption and identity can be found in homeland and articulation goes unquestioned. Such easy epiphanies might pass muster if Walcott were not also so given to clichés: "Remember childhood? Remember a faraway rain? Yesterday I wrote a letter and tore it up." For those who already love Walcott's keen eye and graceful lilt, The Bounty provides the expected.--Salon

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374525378
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/10/2004
  • Edition description: 1ST NOONDA
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia, the West Indies, in 1930. His Collected Poems: 1948-1984 was published in 1986, and his subsequent works include a book-length poem, Omeros (1990); a collection of verse, The Bounty (1997); and, in an edition illustrated with his own paintings, the long poem Tiepolo's Hound (2000). His most recent collections of plays are The Haitian Trilogy (2001) and Walker and The Ghost Dance (2002). Walcott received the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1988 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.

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