Admittedly, I am simply a maiden who has merely frolicked in the works of literature and art. To have been asked to review the work of two geniuses in their fields, is truly a humbling and edifying opportunity. The result is just my feeble attempt to decipher the codes of these artists’ introspection.
On Saturday 17 December, I was honoured to witness the world-renowned artists – our own Sir Derek Walcott and figurative artist Peter Doig – in literary action. My direct involvement in the event’s fruition might have made me more appreciative of the book, but the launch of “Morning, Paramin” gave readers, supporters and other artists a glimpse of the ambience Derek and Peter created in the collection.
The two sat side-by-side, expressing the fruits of what I imagine had been endless years of hard work in studios and in the company of muses. As beautiful as it was to see Derek holding on to what he has always loved, and Peter reciting patois words, it was only a taste of the collection.
“Morning, Paramin” is the seemingly effortless reply of rhythmic poetry to eccentric paintings. I have no idea of the process of the collaboration, but not a trace of miscommunication is evident. Their souls intertwined to create this historic masterpiece.
The title seems to be an informal greeting to a place they regard as utopian, and the word “Paramin”, remains a mystery but a comfort in the poems’ verse: “The name said by itself could make us laugh as if some deep, deep secret was hidden in there.”
Derek’s poetry gently sways to and fro between the memories of his and Peter’s life whilst referencing great writers and iconic painters throughout time and place, like Conrad, Brodsky, Picasso and Anton Chekhov.
He implies his welcoming of Peter to his homeland, the moments they’ve shared before, as well as the times they spent away and not knowing each other. Both artists, with a solemn charm, weave a thread of loss into their work: the passing of Peter’s wife, Margaret, and loss of Derek’s friends like Robert Devaux who he directly mentions.
Imagery from nature is repeated both in the poetry and paintings with appearances of vultures, lions, pelicans and landscapes of Saint Lucia, Canada and Trinidad where Peter now resides. By using his witty alliterations and metaphors to highlight rich history, or to make comparisons to other cultures, Derek casts a spotlight of double entendre on each of Peter’s paintings. He uses continuous juxtaposition of snow and the Caribbean’s warm waters with rhythm and rhyme to bring the brush strokes to life.
After reading “Morning, Paramin” with some help and research, I cannot fathom Derek without Peter, or those paintings without their accompanying words. I heard Peter Doig speak of his fondness of Derek and not the other way around; I didn’t need to because Derek’s appreciation for Peter and painting is revealed in his poetry. In one, “The Tanker”, he wrote: “Beauty without speech is what great painting is.” That is what “Morning, Paramin” is: great painting and great literature.
—The above was first published in the Star in December 2016.