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White Egrets: Poems
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White Egrets: Poems

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  217 ratings  ·  36 reviews

In White Egrets, Derek Walcott treats the characteristic subjects of his career—the Caribbean’s complex colonial legacy, his love of the Western literary tradition, the wisdom that comes through the passing of time, the always strange joys of new love, and the sometimes terrifying beaut...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 16th 2010)
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Tim Meneely
You should read this. Words become music again, even old words. Because, hey, it's the last song at the dance.

I seem to have hit a mode lately. Somewhere between Gill Scott Heron's new album and Derek Walcott's White Egrets, I've found a perspective I love. I am, apparently, 80 years old in my aesthetic.

This book is a massive elegy, drinking the last drops of the images and people he has loved - most of whom are gone. A few brief notes:

√ He's ravenous. Still. He's a grizzled satyr. And he feels...more
One of my favorite poets for many years, Walcott is a poet and playwright who was born in St. Lucia in 1930 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. To think of him as an exclusively Caribbean writer, however, is to limit one’s appreciation of his work and tradition. Walcott has traveled and lived extensively in Europe and the United States, and the myths and cultures of these places are woven intimately into his own Caribbean life experience in a way that makes him truly cosmopol...more
James Murphy
Derek Walcott, a Caribbean poet, writes well about the sea, sun, wind, and long lines where the sky seems rubbled by clouds. But in White Egrets, though the poems carry some of those same Caribbean genes, he's writing about the Mediterranean world. So here's an Italian group, a "Spanish Series," a "Sicilian Suite." Walcott can write it as well as anybody, these poems of a sun made more brilliant by sharing the sky with clouds and a sea made more blue by sails. In poems that are formally married...more
Feb 09, 2014 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: Nobel Prize winner
Shelves: contemporary, poetry
These poems are clearly the product of his later years (this book first came out in 2010) - the themes of aging and dying are pronounced throughout. I would love to now read some of his earlier work for comparison. I love the way Walcott uses color and images from nature in his poetry, especially the egrets that appear in many of these poems. I will just quote the closing sentences from the second verse of the poem "In the Village" about Greenwich Village in New York City:

"... It is the hell
of o
This is the writing of someone who has been doing backflips with English for so long, he's barely aware how impressive it is. It's seasoned, and also spectacular.

That said, I think I might look for other works of his that I could enjoy more. Here he's a little bit whiney (I can only endure so much mourning over a lost muse) and the topics are too urbane to be relatable (I get it--you've traveled the world, especially the romantic old cities of Europe, and you like a good wine). All the same, I'm...more
My first Walcott. If he's writing at this level at age 80, I need to read more of him. Beautiful. *Update. I checked this one out at the library, and thought so highly of it, that I purchased it. When I'm an old man, I'd like to read these poems, or have someone read them to me, while looking at the sea.
Christina Marie Rau
Reading Derek Walcott is a lesson in purposeful diction. Every word has its place and nothing is out of place. White Egrets moves from poems involving birds to poems about places and travel to poems about birds again. Each poem is precise, the lines definitive, the allusions focused, and the length compact. The main drawback: I found myself asking, Why am I reading this? The collection is so one-voiced and each poem is so detailed and crafted, so that they begin to sound the same, blending into...more
Diann Blakely
Aside from his fellow Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, probably the best-known and most acclaimed poet with a new book available in recent years is Derek Walcott, whose production has not flagged with age and the encumbrance of numerous accolades--or the added burden that comes from fully recognizing his own physical vulnerability and impending mortality. Perhaps perversely, these weights and fragilities produce WHITE EGRETS' greatest strengths, especially when one reads slowly, poem by poem.

The c...more
Cornelius Browne
One star is what I'd have given myself as a reader of White Egrets first time around; fortunately on this second outing I find myself on firmer footing. I don't think I've come across another book to which the word "painterly" so aptly applies: "Light frames itself in little squares..." "I come out of my studio for blue air that has no edges..." "Days when I painted in the furnace of noon..." "the failed canvases turn their shamed faces to the wall like sins..." Among the painters namechecked ar...more
Michael Fong
I first came to Walcott in teenaged vagaries, finding in his constant florid turns an evocation of dear things I could not reach alone. There was little grander in the shiny, cavernous halls of art so filling of echoes of my self. But as is the duty of time, we become more ourselves and less our heroes, whose slow flaws catch us one a time, as the aging papyrus that fades clear of wisdom or fretful need, we emerging in place.

I read this thin, grey book as an older Walcott counts his years, drop...more
Roger DeBlanck
In the title poem, “White Egrets,” of Walcott’s brilliant volume, he declares wanting to quest “into that peace/ beyond desires and beyond regrets.” The extraordinary vision in these poems delves a number of recurrent themes in pursuit of that peace: the grace and fury of nature, the newfound clairvoyance of old age, and the pain of recollecting the enigma of love. Above all else, these pieces employ incantatory prose to capture a profound worship of life’s splendor while acknowledging a resigna...more
Evanston Public  Library
In Derek Walcott's latest collection of poems he explores the "quiet ravages of diabetes," loss, mortality, and his love of his native St. Lucia, all with a powerful evocation of place, light and the sea. "The perpetual idea is astonishment," he says, no modest ideal for the octogenarian, and he continues to be astonished - especially by the view, sound, and light of the sea. Of St. Lucia he writes, "this small place produces/ nothing but beauty." Simultaneously weaving together thoughts on comi...more
Written in the twilight of his life, David Walcott's White Egrets is a collection of poems as he contemplates his experiences and muses on what's to come. A native of St. Lucia, Walcott won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature and is considered one of the greatest poets of modern times. His writings were introduced to be me a native St. Lucian, proud of St. Lucia's contribution to the literary world. White Egrets is rather elegiac in its approach:

"The elegance of those orange-billed egrets,
each l...more
A peaceful beautiful although sometimea almost melancholy read. What a great reflection about his life and the joy and pain of growing older. i particularly liked the opening chessman poem, the one about cats, and the one dedicated to President Obama entitled "Forty Acres." I can't remember reading a poetry collection where there has been so much connection between 1 poem and the next. His poem titled "In Amsterdam" is followed by an untitled poem about Van Gogh. His poem dedicated to President...more
If Derek Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 mainly for ‘Omeros’, then ‘White Egrets’ makes the case for the awarding of a second Nobel. It’s much shorter than ‘Omeros’, yet the level of sophistication in the text, playfulness, transnational sensibility, and inventive poetics surprised me given the tendency of Nobel recipients to flounder after receiving their prize. There may be theories as to the timing of this collection: one is Walcott’s older age; another is as a resp...more
Jul 12, 2010 meeners rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to meeners by: Lumberjuan
Shelves: poetry
On the cathedral steps sprinkled by the bells' benediction
like water that blissfully stained the scorching street,
you were not among the small crowd in the sun,
so many in black against the Sicilian heat.
I never entered the shaded church with its pews
facing the tortured altar, but I hoped to find you:
Oh, I did, half-heartedly, but by now it was no use.
The bells meant nothing or the swallows they lifted;
still I felt you were ahead and I was right behind you,
and that you would stop on your shadow a
White Egrets by Derek Walcott is a collection of deeply suggestive and blatant poems about the natural cycle of birth, life, and death and coming to terms with the later as friends, lovers, and others pass away leaving the narrator behind on the journey of life. Each poem uses nature imagery to paint a canvas of emotion as the narrator grapples with grief, joy, and memory.

Walcott’s poems are long and narrative in many cases, which is not a form or style that calls to every reader, but even the m...more
Neil McCrea
I came to Derek Walcott through his friendship with the playwright August Wilson, whose work I adore. After reading through White Egrets a couple of times I can certainly understand why Walcott inhabits the rarified air of the Nobel prize winner. He has an uncanny ability to pinpoint the spirit of a particular time and place, and his mastery of language is casually edifying. I feel effortlessly improved from just reading any given verse aloud. However, there is a distance to his work, a coldness...more
No complaints about the title anyway... the egret quotient of this slim volume is completely satisfactory and they make such a wonderful image. The range of subjects, places, was almost bewildering, the personal nature of many excluding. But I liked the sense in several of reflections on age and particularly enjoyed one about coming to the end of one's powers as a poet: 'let the torn poems sail from you like a flock of white egrets in a long last sigh of release"
The collection is peppered with exquisite moments, and Walcott's skill and subtlety are evident throughout. The rating has everything to do with my own taste. Reading Walcott, I always have the feeling that the poems are preoccupied with the greatness and legacy of the poet, and now I long for less: a humbler tone, diction closer to speech, a singular focal image or metaphor.
Beautiful, elegant verse. Walcott uses scenery like few modern poets, extracting from the vivid tumult of Caribbean and European landscapes the echo of dying myths and dangerous suggestions, and imbues a soft, existential voice with wondrous exploratory vision and, dare I say it, hope. Lovely book!
Alex Pepple
In the backdrop Western European cities, Northern California, yes, the Caribbean and elsewhere, the poems in this book unravel. It's not one of his best, and at times, it gets long-winded, even his usual high craft wavers here, but the overall experience is satisfying.
First rate and a delightful surprise. On first reading, I was a little unsure but my second reading clarified things - splendid collection from a bona fide master. It is heartbreaking to think that this may be his last.
Seems that Mr.Walcott has been travelling away from his beloved Caribbean coastline. More painterly insights into life by the sea, with the usual touches of classics and reflections on modern living.
I loved this book. I have only read it once, must read it about 5 more times. There is so much depth to Walcott's writing, I can't really "get" it all in one reading. Really beautiful.
This was my first time reading Dereck Walcott and I am so glad I did. This is poetry that is about loss and aging but ultimately remembering what has been important in life.
May 06, 2010 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Reviewed by The Independent
Beverly J.
Hard to get through. Most were so convoluted and unpleasant I scanned. A few, very few, were very, very good. Interesting person he must be.
ej cullen
Walcott's pretty much the real deal, a poet living in a time of precious few real deals.
Elizabeth Adams
Absolutely brilliant. I'll be writing an appreciation of this book later.
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Derek Walcott is a Caribbean poet, playwright, writer and visual artist. Born in Castries, St. Lucia, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 "for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment."

His work, which developed independently of the schools of magic realism emerging in both South America and Europe at around the time...more
More about Derek Walcott...
Omeros Collected Poems, 1948-1984 Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays Selected Poems The Prodigal: A Poem

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