The Books of My Numberless Dreams

The Hulls of White Yachts

Posted on: May 22, 2008

Printed in the May 15th New York Review of Books.

The hulls of white yachts riding the orange water
of the marina at dusk, and, under their bowsprits the chuckle
of the chain in the stained sea; try to get there
before a green light winks from the mast and the foc’sle
blazes with glare, while dusk hangs in suspension
with crosstrees and ropes and a like-livid sky
with its beer stein of cloud froth touched by the sun,
as stars come out to watch the evening die.
In this orange hour the light reads like Dante,
three lines at a time, their symmetrical tension,
quiet bars rippling from the Paradiso
as a dinghy writes lines made by the scanty
metre of its oar strokes, and we, so
mesmerized can barely talk. Happier
than any man now is one who sits drinking
with his lifelong companion under the winking
stars and the steady arc lamp at the end of the pier.

Derek Walcott

I dig Walcott. Truly. But I wonder if the NYRB would ever consider posting a poem by Edward K Brathwaite? That could be interesting. I’m curious because a Walcott poem led me to look up a Brathwaite one that I know he’s alluding to (damn if I can find which one it is yet) and I got caught up in reading his 60s work which, wow, pretty in your face. But then the NYRB wouldn’t print something like Walcott’s “Dread Song”, anyway.

8 Responses to "The Hulls of White Yachts"

Imani, you are right. No, NYRB probably wouldn’t publish Brathwaite’s work. They, like many of their New York cohorts, prefer writers who do not disturb what they think about the Caribbean…

Walcott alluded to this issue in a poem where he said he needed to “suffer in accurate iambics.”

But then again, New York is not the center of the INIverse… Kingston is


Yes, I don’t need the NYRB to post it. (Can’t imagine it. Probably get lots of offended letters and not only from those of lighter skin, I’m sure.) And a mere two selections aren’t anything to go on (I think I missed the other Walcott it printed) but I found it kind of unusual how uniformly mellow the two poems were. Very, very “universal” I suppose. So I had to be a blogger (or Jamaican? heh) and make accusations. 😉

Did you manage to find the poem Walcott is alluding to? Isn’t it so annoying when that happens? It’s the sort of thing that keep me awake at night. Thanks for posting this. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

Not quite. I thought I had but I read it and the poem did not ring a bell. I was too tired last night for anything to keep me awake but it keeps on nagging me at the back of my mind all through the day. Ack. And you’re welcome. 😀

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