Derek Walcott


If I had not been, since boyhood, sceptical of all forms of address, by which I mean prose spoken in public, I would not have been invited to address you this morning, since the honour you have paid me is the very one I have been determined to avoid because I write verse. Public prose contains in it an affability, in fact, a superiority that is political. It must contain charm, however contorted its syntax; it must communicate, however high-pitched its subject; and most horrible of all to a poet (a word that makes me nauseous when I apply it to myself), it must make sense. It is the very opposite of the perpetual ignorance of poetry, the induced chaos from which a poem begins. I am perhaps perpetuating this chaos now, because it is very difficult, almost impossible, not in my nature, to make sense. Because I do not know what sense is, certainly because I know it is not common but rare, I have avoided writing critical or philosophical prose for all of my life.



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