Watch & Listen

Derek Walcott: The Perpetual Ideal is Astonishment

August 24, 2020
LISTEN → - "I'm gonna read some new poems, so you can mark the decline." This is how Derek Walcott—poet, playwright, Nobel Laureate—introduced his reading here at the Poetry Center in September of 2007. In April, those new poems were published as White Egrets, Mr. Walcott's fourteenth collection. To mark the occasion, we offer a recording of his reading from the then-unpublished manuscript.

Reviewing the book recently for The New York Times, Karl Kirchwey, poet and former Poetry Center director, wrote:

"Walcott has deliberately avoided the confessional path pioneered by his early friend and supporter Robert Lowell, choosing instead a post-Romantic voice, closely allied with landscape, in which the particulars of a life are incidental to a larger poetic vision, one in which the self is not the overt subject.

[White Egrets] is both visionary, in the best sense of that word, and intensely personal, even autobiographical. It is an old man's book, craving one more day of light and warmth; and it is a book of stoic reckoning."

Unterberg Poetry Center webcasts and access to our archive are made possible in part by the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.