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It takes a West Indian a long time to say who he is.
The priest wrote a mechanically witty reply, in heroic couplets [actually, in a six-line pentameter stanza rhymed ababcc, with every foot in lock-step iambic], accusing me of pantheism, of animism, in short of heresy. It was a painful shock to a fourteen-year-old boy to be told that he loved what he thought were the natural manifestations of a God in a wrong way; and an equal horror to find that the metre at which he had labored could be so facile a form of argument.Father Jesse would take up the blunt instrument of his verse again in September to bludgeon down curricular reform in the St. Lucian schools:
The whole Irish influence was for me a very intimate one. When the Irish brothers came to teach at the college in St. Lucia, I had been reading a lot of Irish literature: I read Joyce, naturally I knew Yeats, and soon. I've always felt some kind of intimacy with the Irish poets becauseone realized that they were also colonials with the same kinds of prob-lems that existed in the Caribbean. They were the niggers of Britain. Now, with all of that, to have those astounding achievements of genius, whether by Joyce or Yeats or Beckett, illustrated that one could comeout of a depressed, deprived, oppressed situation and be defiant and cre-ative at the same time.
I went to my mother and said, "I'd like to publish a book of poems, and I think it's going to cost me two hundred dollars." She was just a seamstress and a schoolteacher, and I remember her being very upset because she wanted to do it. Somehow she got it;--a lot of money for a woman to have found on her salary. She gave it to me, and I sent off to Trinidad and had the book printed [by the Trinidad Guardian, one of the two major Trinidadian newspapers]. When the books came back I would sell them to friends. I made the money back. In terms of seeing a book in print, the only way I could have done it was to publish it myself.
Excerpted from Nobody's Nation: Reading Derek Walcott by Paul Breslin Copyright © 2001 by Paul Breslin. Excerpted by permission.
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