Tim Meneely's Reviews > White Egrets

White Egrets by Derek Walcott
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's review
May 20, 10

Read in May, 2010

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 a little odd about how his libido, his eye, his wanderlust won't abate. But he's not self-conscious.

√ He won't pull put on imagery, but he does not subscribe to frenzy. He is not an ecstatic. He is an old man who is resigned to have lived loving pretty things.

√ He uses images that border on cliche, and tropes are redundant throughout. I LOVE this here. There's something in it that's almost crotchety, as if simply because he's old he gets to call on the language that was once sharply beautiful, then worn through, as an old friend. But it doesn't lose freshness, partially owing to the rueful tone of the composition.

√ It's simple. He uses alliteration and internal rhyme to form fairly simple, always balanced wordplay. It's not unnecessarily obfuscatory, but nor is it simplistic. It's mellifluous, and has little to do with LangPo's endless semantic games. He doesn't need my approval, but he offers his pearls sincerely, and I love him for that.
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