REMEMBERING DEREK WALCOTT

My chest sinks to hear that Derek Walcott is lost to us. In 2011, I was lucky enough to live alongside him and to interview him for Il manifesto. Here is another fragment from that interview, which was never published in its entirety, or in English:

Scappettone: You’ve been working with theatrical forms for over 50 years now, having founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959 and the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at Boston University in 1981. What is it that drew you to theater so early on, and what is it that keeps bringing you back to theater?

Walcott: Well, I don’t like “bringing back”; I have never left it, really, so it’s not a revival.

Scappettone: Then it’s a parallel to the space of your poetry.

Walcott: Well my plays are in verse, so I’m consequently working in one form, which is poetry. One aspect of the form is drama, the other aspect is lyric; but it’s really one form, I think.

Scappettone: So how do you view the relationship between this relatively isolated, meditative space of the person reading a poem and the public space of performance?

Walcott: I think it depends on what he is reading…. There are great poets who are also great dramatists. I think Dante’s a terrific film writer, you know what I mean? Great imagery and all that stuff. Whereas some poets don’t transfer easily to the stage, because that’s not their intention. But I think that every poet with any talent should write a play, and should write it in verse… Especially in film: there is an immediate identity between film and verse.

Scappettone: But relatively underexplored, in a certain way.

Walcott: Yeah, I don’t know why American poets don’t go into the theater, they’re discouraged…by who people think, well, they are poets, what do they know about theater? But that’s an idiotic statement because look at who is a poet, and who knows about theater. Mr Shakespeare, right?…. All the Elizabethans, the Jacobeans…. I think that American poetry, in terms of its immediacy, its articulacy, its conversational quality, is in one of the strongest periods we’ve had since the Jacobeans….

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