A note on Derek Walcott
This special dispatch from our sunlight-and-succulent filled desks at The Lookout Journal, on March 21, 2017 starts by remembering the great Derek Walcott, who passed away just days before World Poetry Day today. The Carribean poet was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992; the citing, of most relevance for the world as it is today, read: "for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment".
Seven years later, at its 30th session held in Paris, 1999 UNESCO announced its decision to proclaim this day every year, world over, as a day dedicated to poetry. The mission statement includes encouraging "a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals", and "to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting" and more, all culminating in the idea that poetry "will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity."
Examples abound as to how the world has made huge leaps in transcending the last bit mentioned here, but the first two are still bridges yet to be approached, yet alone crossed. In our own small way, we at the Journal want to try our best at taking a crack at them.
In this special, mini issue that swooshes in right in between our usual production schedules, we present to you 5 works by Indians (or persons of Indian diaspora) for your pleasure. We are hugely indebted to Sudeep Sen's The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry, one of the first poetry volumes to find itself a permanent place on our shelves (there's also a prescribed textbook called Songs of Ourselves, which is a certified treasure trove, if you're looking for obscure recommendations.)
Before you read them though, we want to leave you with Walcott's The Season of Phantasmal Peace— the wish for a beautiful, moving moment of goodwill for the world. As Teju Cole wrote in The New York Times three years ago, "The writing leaves mere lyricism far behind and rises to the level of prophetic speech."
We wish you a lot many moments of poetry this year. <3
~ Anusha & Vangmayi
The Season of Phantsamal Peace
by Derek Walcott
Then all the nations of birds lifted together
the huge net of the shadows of this earth
in multitudinous dialects, twittering tongues,
stitching and crossing it. They lifted up
the shadows of long pines down trackless slopes,
the shadows of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
the shadow of a frail plant on a city sill—
the net rising soundless as night, the birds' cries soundless, until
there was no longer dusk, or season, decline, or weather,
only this passage of phantasmal light
that not the narrowest shadow dared to sever.
And men could not see, looking up, what the wild geese drew,
what the ospreys trailed behind them in silvery ropes
that flashed in the icy sunlight; they could not hear
battalions of starlings waging peaceful cries,
bearing the net higher, covering this world
like the vines of an orchard, or a mother drawing
the trembling gauze over the trembling eyes
of a child fluttering to sleep;
it was the light
that you will see at evening on the side of a hill
in yellow October, and no one hearing knew
what change had brought into the raven's cawing,
the killdeer's screech, the ember-circling chough
such an immense, soundless, and high concern
for the fields and cities where the birds belong,
except it was their seasonal passing, Love,
made seasonless, or, from the high privilege of their birth,
something brighter than pity for the wingless ones
below them who shared dark holes in windows and in houses,
and higher they lifted the net with soundless voices
above all change, betrayals of falling suns,
and this season lasted one moment, like the pause
between dusk and darkness, between fury and peace,
but, for such as our earth is now, it lasted long.