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January 17, 1989 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-17

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ARTS
Tuesday, January 17, 1989

Page 9

The Michigan Daily
Ireland
rises up
iin wake
BY MICHAEL P. FISCHER
IN a year when U2 finally entered
the pantheon of American rock-and-
roll mythology, taking the spirits of
Dylan, Hendrix, and B.B. King on a
bigger-than-life tour through Grace-
land, it could be easy to forget -
after all this rattle and hum and
sound and fury - that these guys are
an Irish band. At one time in the
STATE OF TilE
ART
early years of the decade, the band's
unprecedented attraction may well
have been the elusive sort of Celtic
energy that informed the jig-like
guitar beatitudes and eerie drones of
"Gloria" and "Into the Heart." After
the Van Morrisonesque retro of
1984's "Promenade," the only pin-
nacle remaining would have to be
the throne of world rock-and-roll -
Hollywood. The Joshua Tree
skimmed the desert outskirts, an
outsider's view still clinging to the
ascending Catholic effects of "In
God's Country."
The internationalist fan will re-
member 1988, then, as the year U2
broke their sound down into crude,
elemental Americana and relin-

Walcott's

worlds

Island poet

dares

to mention breadfruit

BY JAY PINKA
YOU are standing on the steps of a
crumbling Roman Catholic Church
deep in the heart of the Caribbean,
one hand clasping a book by Robert
Lowell or Charles Dickens, the other
a breadfruit. You savor the papaya
sunset against indigo ocean, as the
hum of the city rustles you back to
modern reality among the banana
leaves.
Feeling warmer, yet confused?
Good. Experiencing the paradoxical
work of West Indian poet, screen-
writer and playwrightnDerek Walcott
won't leave you out in the cold.
Walcott, a "divided child," strug-
gled to maintain sincerity as an
artistic pioneer in the late '40s and
early '50s. In a 1982 interview with
Americas, he called Caribbean writ-
ers "very daring to mention things as
local as... breadfruit." This approach
contrasted with writers from other
areas, such as Latin America, who,
insecure in the cultural value of their
own heritage, often wound up ex-
pressing themselves in Anglo-
American voices.
However, Walcott, educated at the
University of West Indies in
Kingston, Jamaica, senses art as
structured from European genre and
tradition. From his first-born, Col-
lected Poems of 1948, to the 1981
Washington D.C. premiere of Pan-
tomime, a comic satire in which
Robinson Crusoe and Friday switch
roles, he mingles Old World artistic
discipline with the lush, fertile
backdrop of Caribbean landscape and
culture.

He persists in coupling cultural
poles in both theme and form in his
most recent work, The Arkansas
Testament., published in 1987.
This point is illustrated in "Roseau
Valley": "No lights/ on in the aban-
doned factory/now. Trolleys rust on
ties./ The crop switched to bananas/
instead and a boy's paradise/ fell in
sheaves of hosannas."

(Walcott) persists in
coupling cultural poles in
both theme and form....
This point is illustrated in
'Roseau Valley': 'No
lights/on in the abandoned
factory/ now. Trolleys
rust on ties./ The crop
switched to bananas/ in-
stead and a boy's paradise/
fell in sheaves of hosan-
nas.'
Lines from "A Latin Primer,"
from the same collection, address the
conflict of love for the free lines of
natural beauty with the restrictive
means traditionally used to express
its inspiration: "I hated signs of
scansion.../ they were like Mathe-
matics/ that made delight Design/
arranging the thrown sticks/ of stars
to sine and cosine."
Walcott's use of colorful imagery
throughout his works reflects his
original aspiration of becoming an
artist. In his youth, he spent many
hours entranced by art books. But
words finally won Walcott's devo-
tion. The poet Robert Lowell be-

came a major inspiration for his
writing, causing him to create such
works as The Star-Apple Kingdom
(1981), The Fortunate Traveller
(1982), Midsummer (1983), Col-
lected Poems (1948-1984).
But poetry isn't the extent of
Walcott's contribution to society; he
also bounces between cultures from
his home in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad,
to a St. Croix theatre group in the
U.S. Virgin Islands where his plays,
The Joker of Seville, 0 Babylon!,
Dream on Monkey Mountain and
Other Plays, and Remembrance (also
produced in New York), first materi-
alizedon stage. In addition, he
founded the Trinidad Theatre Work-.
shop.
Walcott has also had assistant
professorships and taught writing
workshops at Harvard and Boston
Universities. He has won the,-
Michael R. Gutterman Poetry
Award, the Bain-Swigget Poetry
Prize, and the Roy W. Cowden
Memorial Fellowship. His work has,
appeared inThe New Yorker, The
Trinidad and Tobago Review, The
London Times - a list as varied as
Walcott's background and career.
Derek Walcott's economical use
of lyrical style and lush imagery has
keenly interwoven two spheres,
causing critics to accuse him of
wanting "language to take the place
of the world." One must sip the fla-
vor of his work, savor the scenery,
and open up to his sense of wonder,
as his poetry gives rise to an oasis-
of diversity.
DEREK WALCOTT will speak and ;
read from his works, during the
Hopwood Underclassmen Awards
today at 3:30 p.m. in the Rackham
Auditorium.

Maire Brennan of
musicians that have
mainstream.

Clannad is among the new breed of
helped bring Irish culture into the pop

quished the homeground to a flourish
of new bands no longer haunted by
the heroes's omnipresence. While
U2 rose to fame, Ireland had experi-
enced no renaissance like the '82-'83
spurt out of Scotland which yielded
fellow travelers Simple Minds, Big.
Country, and The Waterboys, pos-
sessors of the same Celtic spirit

uniquely suited to stadium-sized
gestures.
U2 formed their own Mother la-
bel to promote new bands, among
them In Tua Nua and the Hothouse
Flowers. One such band, Cactus
World News, arose as successors in
'86 to U2's title with a poesy of its
See Irish, Page 10

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