North and South

by cristinamoody

 

Cristina Moody

North and South 

Derek Walcott’s poem, North and South, imparts the experiences of a Caribbean traveller visiting the New England and South-Eastern areas of the United States. The cold nature of the New York winter and its citizens leaves the traveller in a state of emotional exile, “a single, circling, homeless satellite.” He is cynical of the northern imperial world, aware of its oppressing power, but at the same time wishes to be part of it so that he can be one of the races that “fear and hate” rather than his experience of being afraid and hated. 

 

The complex and intense emotions found in the poem reflects the duality of Derek Walcott’s heritage. Born in the caribbean, Walcott is of both British and African decent. Caribbean colonial history, slave and slave owner, are the foundations of his hybrid identity.

 

The emotional conflict created from Walcott’s experience is the driving force of the poem. The emotional pull of opposing colonial sides is one of the aspects Walcott uses to link the North and South, subject and ruler, in a binding dichotomy. He adds intensity to this division with his pointed use of language. The formal english tone of the poem and the allusions to many great European writers is set up only to be betrayed by the “brittle as slate” Caribbean patois  phrase, “je suis un singe,” found in the last stanza. Historical references to cities of antiquity, Germany’s Reich and Treblinka, help to emphasize the oppressing mood of the poem. The rich imagery used creates relationships between military and spring, punctuation and statues, among others. A complex web is shaped by Walcott connecting the polarized ends of colonial history and illuminating the issues of racism and oppression that are still prevalent in the world today.

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One Comment to “North and South”

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