Toward a new poetics of space in Derek Walcott’s Midsummer
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Caribbean self-formation is a project in constructing a new poetics that situates itself against imposed and fixed ideas about culture, language, and personhood. For places like the Caribbean, history is indexed by linguistic and bodily fragmentations, ecological upheavals and transformations, and diasporic wanderings to and from the islands. Literature can then be thought of as an aesthetic project in making sense of the present and visualizing alternatives for the future. Walcott’s Midsummer opens up a space in which to consider the relationship between human beings, landscapes, and culture. Derek Walcott’s Midsummer captures the cadences of life and time in the tropics: the time between a moment, a season, a life, or an era. This particular sequence of fifty-four poems records a full year, the period between one summer and the next. The liminal space of the in-between in Midsummer lends itself to reversals of time, the poems traverse back and forth between the then and now, taking time to linger and take pause in memory and imagination, but also in moments of lived experience. The aperture created between the past and future frees us to think about the multiple, uncertain temporalities of the present, and the position of the poet between two cultures mimes the central ambivalence of midsummer. In these poetic musings, Walcott considers his own positionality vis-à-vis the Caribbean and its colonial past, Europe, high literary culture, and poetry itself. It explores the extent to which place produces literature or that literature produces place and culture, leaving open a productive possibility of rearticulating the conceptual framework for the idea of culture.