The Prodigal

Overview

The Prodigal is a journey through physical and mental landscapes, from Greenwich Village to the Alps, from Pescara to Milan, from Germany to Cartagena. But always in "the music of memory, water" abide St. Lucia, the author's birthplace, and the living sea. In his new work, Derek Walcott has created a sweeping yet intimate epic of an exhausted Europe studded with church spires and mountains, train stations and statuary, a place where the New World is an idea, a "wavering map," and where History subsumes the ...
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The Prodigal: A Poem

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Overview

The Prodigal is a journey through physical and mental landscapes, from Greenwich Village to the Alps, from Pescara to Milan, from Germany to Cartagena. But always in "the music of memory, water" abide St. Lucia, the author's birthplace, and the living sea. In his new work, Derek Walcott has created a sweeping yet intimate epic of an exhausted Europe studded with church spires and mountains, train stations and statuary, a place where the New World is an idea, a "wavering map," and where History subsumes the natural history of his "unimportantly beautiful" island home. Here the wanderer fears that he has been tainted by his exile, that his life has become untranslatable, and that his craft itself is rooted in the betrayal of the vivid archipelago to which he must return for the sustenance of life.
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Editorial Reviews

Mervyn Morris
Some of the most moving passages center on the death, at 71, of Roderick Walcott, Derek's twin brother: "Your soul, my twin, keeps fluttering in my head,/ a hummingbird, bewildered by the rafters,/ barred by a pane that shows a lucent heaven." At the end of the poem, the prodigal sees dolphins he associates with Roddy, and drifting cinders that are emblematic "angels"; and the boat is shuddering towards "that other shore."
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Travelogue, elegy, autobiography and lush description mingle and merge in the prolific Nobel laureate's latest book-length poem. Walcott (Omeros; Tiepolo's Hound; etc.) has long specialized in poems about places and journeys, and the first parts of his new work sound like more of the same: flowing pentameters remember stints in Milan, Colombia, the Swiss Alps, Manhattan and Berlin, each associated with a brace of elaborate images, as well as with a particularly attractive young woman. Describing these "women who contained their cities" and the history those cities hold, Walcott traces an "untethered pilgrimage" in which "what was altered was something more profound/ than geography, it was the self." If some readers find the first half of the volume unanchored (or too much like Walcott's 1982 book Midsummer), the second will bring them a deeper and more complex view: we learn that the poet's journey through memory arose in response to the death of his brother, Roddy, and hence "from that fear/ that we he loved and knew once as a boy/ would panic and forget him." In Walcott's return to his native St. Lucia, his poem finds an emotional core; "the bright salt arc of a bare unprinted beach," allows the poet to conclude with sober reflections on his own celebrity ("the death-mask of Fame") and on advancing age. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Is it any wonder that a poet born on an island (St. Lucia) uses voyaging forth as his greatest theme? As in his grand Omeros, the Nobel prize-winning Walcott delivers a travelog both physical and metaphysical: the narrator journeys from New York ("There is a continent outside my window,/ in the Hudson's patient narrative") to the Alps (where he sees "the white spur of the Matterhorn") to his beloved Italy ("Blessed are the small farms conjugating Horace,/ and the olive trees as twisted as Ovid's syntax"). As he travels through landscapes, he also travels through cultural history, absorbing its glories even as he is being remade by it; "it is only afterwards that these things are ours," he observes, then concedes, "I have been blent in the surface of frescoes." In the end, there's a desire to return home that's almost wistful-a dark-hued gentleness that's something new. Brimming with emotion yet as polished as poetry gets; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/04; see also "Fall Editor's Picks, LJ 9/1/04.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Derek Walcott's virtues as a poet are extraordinary . . . He could turn his attention on anything at all and make it live with a reality beyond its own; through his fearless language it becomes not only its acquired life, but the real one, the one that lasts." —James Dickey, The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374530167
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/21/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 1,447,053
  • Product dimensions: 5.71 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia 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 the long poem Tiepolo's Hound (2000). His most recent collection of plays is Walker and The Ghost Dance (2002). He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.
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