In advance of the world premiere of Derek Walcott’s Moon-Child (Ti-Jean in Concert) at the American Academy in Rome last night, I interviewed the author/director, last week, for Sunday’s Il manifesto.
A work recast from the earlier Ti-Jean and His Brothers, taking the ballad meter of the conteur, riddled with jokes & calypsolike songs on the stage in a world remote from St. Lucia: lines and paint of the poet making their way further and further out, with phrases like “you hackneyed cough between two / immortalities”: admiration for the guts and humility of that.
Walcott in our interview, on terza rima and the long line:
“So I would pay homage, as a beginning person, in a world centuries later, with the same idea of the immortal continuity of poetry from any language—since the English language is indebted to Homer and Virgil and Dante—I would do that as a beginning, right? That’s part of the homage that I admit to, because I don’t believe in this dictum of Be Yourself, or, Don’t Acknowledge Your Ancestors…. Trés Americaine!
“Scappettone: Free verse, and the whole idea of being free in verse.
“Walcott: I…had a student tell me—we did “The Fall of Rome,” right, by Auden—who said “I wouldn’t have done it like that.” Oo, vive l’Amerique! (laughter)
“Scappettone: I think that’s a good way to end, on “The Fall of Rome: I wouldn’t do it like that.”"