A Ghetto Nerd’s Notebook: A Misanthropic Appraisal Of Caesar

Robert Lashley
10 min readAug 14, 2022

On Derek Walcott.


If-as John Updike once said-“Fame is the mask that eats the face,” one can argue that Derek Walcott’s casing began at his boyhood house. In book 2 of Another Life, his autobiographical epic poem, he arrives at his old door an acclaimed yet struggling poet. At the sight of its remnants, the memories overwhelm him

” Old house, old woman, old room
old planes, old buckling membranes of the womb
translucent walls,
breathe through your timbers, gasp
arthritic, curling beams
cough in old air
shining with moats, stair
polished and re-polished by the hands of strangers
die with defiance with your grey flecking eyes

He proceeds to go up to her room and be consumed by what he sees: the creaking sunlight, the memory of her cigarette smoke, the individual landscape that only he could render on the page-a mélange of old worlds and new, the present and the past, folk and a modern language alchemized into gorgeous lyric stanzas that are broken by a single line

Why should anyone weep for such dumb things”

The standard narrative regarding Walcott’s career is that this was part of his hero’s journey home, and Life is the marker of a journey from apprenticeship to maturity. The close reader unacquainted with the popular mythology of the man might not be so willing to tag these scenes-or Walcott’s early works-as stepping stones. The Caribbean of Walcott’s early poems often speaks in the context of an environment that he “mastered” in Life just as much as he mastered his craft on the page.

Yet time and time again in the early poems, a Walcott emerges that cannot be swept away in a conservative narrative. There are numerous early poems like “Choc Bay” where Walcott tries to juxtapose the beauty and poverty of St Lucia and finds that:

“All that I have and want for words
to fling my griefs about
and salt enough for my eyes”

Robert Lashley

Writer. Author. Former Jack Straw and Artist Trust Fellow. The baddest ghetto nerd on the planet.