At the 1992 ACLALS conference in Jamaica, the distinguished Sri Lankan critic, Jasmine Gooneratne, quoted from Walcott's 'A Far Cry from Africa', which she called one of the most moving poems of the century. The next year, a republished essay by the English Puerto Rican critic, Gerald Guinness, described the 'entire poem as a tissue of insincerities'.1 Guinness's adverse judgement was anticipated in 1982 by Helen Vendler in her review of The Fortunate Traveller, where she referred to 'A Far Cry from Africa' as 'not ... a poem, but rather an essay in pentameters'.2 How can judgements diverge so far? Can the divergence tell us something about Walcott's poetry and, perhaps, 'post-colonial' poetry in general? I shall seek an answer to these questions by examining the foundations for the adverse judgements.
Cribb, T J., Defining a Voice: Derek Walcott, Kunapipi, 20(3), 1998.