Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 7th 2017 Contents B14
guardian.co.tt Friday, April 7, 2017
The pen was Walcott's gift
CHARLES KONG SOO
Acclaimed poet, playwright and
Nobel Laureate Sir Derek Walcott
did bestride the literary world like
a colossus. He was equally com-
fortable at home in the land of
his birth, St Lucia, his daughters
Elizabeth and Anna's Trinidad, and
the wider world in the US, UK and
Europe. The world was his oyster
which with his words he opened.
His Homeric epic poem Omeros is
considered by many to be his mag-
Tributes continue to pour in since
his death on March 17 at his home in
Cap Estate, north St Lucia, after a pro-
One of them is artist Donald "Jackie"
Hinkson, whose work Walcott critiqued
in his role as art critic and also as staff
writer with the Guardian newspaper
in the 60s.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian re-
cently Hinkson said: "His generosity,
honesty in his criticism, his ability to
work and produce and the brilliance
in what he has done add up to a giant
of a life.
"He didn't tolerate superficiality
when coming to the arts and the talk
about glory and self-aggrandizement.
"In all the decades that I've known
him, I've never heard him refer to
how good his work is, he might tell
you he was pleased with a particular
piece or not but never picked up for
"If you told him that you liked his
work or "nice work, it touched me"
he would mutter a thank you. That is
a lesson a lot of people in the arts could
learn about self-absorption."
Hinkson said he first met Walcott in
1960 in his capacity as an art critic and
an excellent one at that, arguably the
best in T&T, when he was a teenager
aspiring to be an artist.
Hinkson said what was astonishing
about the future Nobel Laureate for Lit-
erature was in spite of his brilliance as
a writer and a poet, Walcott had such a
deep knowledge and history of painting
and was himself a practitioner and had
painted all his life.
He said Walcott alluded to painting
in many of his poems and, in his heart,
he wanted to be a painter, paraphrasing
from his book-length with Walcott's
own watercolour and oil paintings in
"Tiepolo's Hound" that his gift was
with the pen; "I gave up the brush for
Hinkson said in 1961 along with Peter
Minshall, Pat Bishop, Alice Greenhall,
Arthur Webb, they held an exhibition at
the old Woodbrook Market on French
Street in Port-of-Spain, then the head-
quarters of the Trinidad Art Society,
which was favourably critiqued by
He said since that date, Walcott had
taken a liking to his work and that kind
of constant interest was an invaluable
help to him.
Hinkson said not only was he a great
critic, what he could not get over was
the generosity towards him, the fact
that Walcott was willing and keen to
see what he was doing and give honest
He said Walcott was fair but he did
not mince words, when it came to art,
writing and anything creative; someone
could be his best friend and he would
call it as he saw it.
Hinkson said Walcott made a point
to keep in touch with him for the past
56 years anytime he was in Trinidad
and he would reciprocate visiting him
in his native St Lucia.
He said they would contact each
other and Walcott would make sure
to come to his studio to see what he
Hinkson said Walcott was particular-
ly keen on water colour which was the
medium he liked and to some degree it
dominated his work as well.
Hinkson said what amazed him about
Walcott was that he was a prolific writer
and he believed in hard work.
He said the poet did not want to
hear talk about who was important in
what field, Walcott wanted to know
what someone was doing, what he was
working on or producing and his life.
Hinkson said the amount of work he
had done was exemplary, which was
another aspect of him he would like
He wanted to be a painter, but...
Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give me them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.
Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf's drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk
on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the dreaming motion
of owls leaving earth's load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.
The sea canes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger
that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring moonlight, further than despair,
strong as the wind, that through dividing caves
brings those we love before us as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.
• Derek Walcott (1930-2017) in Derek Walcott:
Collected Poems 1948-1984 (1986) originally
published in Sea Grapes (1971)
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