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Thursday, 6 September 2007

"A grave suspicion of poetry"

Naipaul seems to understand something of the value of Walcott’s early poetry, but he reads poetry in the most intriguing way. And it is this approach to reading poetry that I find most intriguing in the work.

Naipaul admits a grave suspicion of poetry. That is generous. He, at one point, admits that there was a time when poetry was a pleasure for him. Then he was reading rhymes by Palgrave-—memorable, witty pieces written, one assumes, for children. Then he was forced to contend with poetry that did not offer the kind of accessibility that he felt was useful. He did not enjoy studying literature and says he was grateful for not having done literature in is sixth form exams because he would have had to read poetry and that would just have been a disaster. He does concede that while at university in England (he read at Oxford, but with splendid Oxford modesty, does not mention this fact in the piece) he was forced to read Shakespeare and Marlowe and he found power in quite simple lines. This he found remarkable. But he does not appear to have developed much of a taste for poetry, and if there is a taste, he does not trust it terribly.

-- Kwame Dawes, responding at the Poetry Foundation blog to Naipaul's essay on Walcott published recently in the UK Guardian.

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