Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Derek Walcott, Poet

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is the poet, Derek Walcott:

Derek Walcott on writing and painting.

Oh, what a beautiful language we have, this English. We strip it and we tear it down, we ignore it and abuse it and lose a bit of it along the way. It not only survives. It rises like a phoenix and soars. Especially when it is in the hands of a poet. William Shakespeare was that kind of poet, and Seamus Heaney too. So was Derek Walcott.

Derek Walcott was an island man, so he gave us islands and the sea. He showed us that poetry could rise out of the least of places. That it was possible for a black man from a very small place could become a great poet. And he did it with this magnificent language of ours.

 

Grammarlogically Speaking

“I didn’t mean–” her daughter spoke back at her mother.

“Of course, you did,” her mother disagreed with her. “You wouldn’t have said it if you didn’t mean it.”

“But, Mom,” the daughter pleaded her case.

“That’s what you’re always saying,” the mother was announcing her victory. “There’ll be no ifs, ands, or buts. Not in my house.”

“How about a however,” her father said with a smile on his face.

“That’s as bad as a yet,” the mother was not happy about his however. It usurped her authority. It was bad enough that her daughter wanted to give her a hard time. Now she had to take on two members of the family instead of one. “That’s a nyet if ever there was one.”

“And yet,” he came back at her.

“What’d I tell you about starting a sentence with ‘and’.” The English teacher in the mother was coming out big time now.

The daughter was happy for the reinforcements. “Even though—“

“Now hold on,” the mother was not accepting the challenge with ease.

“Oh,” the father chipped in. “now you’re pulling one of those now-hold-ons. You know how we hate those. That’s hitting below the belt.”

“You think?” the mother wasn’t having none of his sass either.

“So you want to conjugate,” the father had a big smile on his face. “You think, you thought, you thunk.”

“Thunk?” the mother was not believing what she was hearing. “I thunk not. It’s you think, you thought, you had thought.”

“I spent a long time thunking it,” the daughter was trying to catch up with her parents.

“That’s enough,” the mother came back.

“Oh, now we’re getting a that’s-enough,” the father.

“You know you’re all wet,” the mother said. She had completely forgotten where the argument had started, forgotten enough to use a cliche’.

“So it’s going to be water pistols at ten paces,” the father said.

Fermenting

One of my favorite words is fermenting. It’s such a fine word. Letting something sit on the brain and allowing the subconscious to work on it. That’s fermenting for you. I get a line like: “I am a horse, have always been a horse, would always be a horse. Until the witch turned me into a boy.”

The first thing that happens: I am startled. Where did a line like that come from? I don’t know but I am ready to follow wherever it leads. Whatever dance it chooses to perform.

Now some may think I should whip it into shape, make it become what my little pea-sized brain wants.

But that’s not the way of the tao, as Laotse let us know over twenty-five centuries ago. I let it go fermenting. I stick it in the back of my mind, check in every so often. Used to think I was the only one who did this. Then I heard the playwright Edward Albee talk. He said that he will get an idea, stick it away to allow the subconscious to work on it. Check in six months later and see where the idea has flown. Then back into the subconscious again. He does this over a two-year period. Eventually it is full-grown, and a work of art.

After a bit of fermenting, I pull it out for the old look-see. Just so you know, a bit may be six months, sometimes shorter, sometimes more. Nope, it’s not ripened and back into the old subby-conscious it goes, tucked away in the cool, dark places where it gets a chance to grow healthy. From time to time, I pull it out for some nourishment.

Once the idea is ready for the garden, I take it out into the warm sunlight of consciousness. Water it some. Feed it some plant food. And off it sprouts. Soon I have a full-blown work.

It takes a lot of patience for fermenting. It is well worth the time I give it. Look at what it did for Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen. What a lot of writers blame on writer’s block, I call fermenting, giving a work time to sprout muscles and spread its roots.

So be patient. Do some fermenting.

Do you have a favorite word?

Autobiographicles Please

You’ve heard of the Tea Party? You know the thing Alice did with the Mad Hatter? Now c’mon. Not that kind of thing. Get your mind out of the gutter. They had tea. Lately I have been thinking about having me a Me Party.

You see I am three people in one. A Me, a Myself and an I. It’s time I let one of them loose to celebrate. So I am starting with Me. This Me Party will celebrate the Wit and Wisdom of Uncle Bardie’s Me self and will kick off the publication of “Me: The Autobiographical Uncle Bardie”. For those who can’t get enough of Uncle Bardie, there will come a sequel, “More of Me”, then a sequel of a sequel, “Most of Me”. Who knows where it will end? There might even be an “Uncle Bardie’s Magical Mystery Tour”.

All the greats and the near-greats and the not-so-greats and the none-too-greats get to extoll their virtues and their sins in memoirs these days. Why not Uncle Bardie? It is only fair to my multitude of fans. Though I have nothing to say about life, I figure I can say it better than all the others with nothing to say. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to those with inquiring minds if I didn’t. In fact, it would be downright cruel. Uncle Bardie, being a kind man, would never commit cruelty knowingly.

So where to begin? How about at the beginning. I can think of no better place.

I was born on a dark and stormy night in the best of times, in the worst of times. My mama was going to call me Ishmael but that name had been taken by some feller name of Melville. Like Abe Lincoln, I was born in a log cabin. Not actually a log cabin but it sounds better than a trailer park. When I say that, it makes me sound like some kind of Honey Boo Boo. We weren’t trailer trash but my mama sure knew what to do with the garbage. That was why we had a big green dumpster down the way from our trailer.

I was born on the cusp of Virgo and Libra. In other words, my Virgo was slanting into Libra. Guess that makes me a bi-cuspid. There are days when my Virgo gets out of hand and I want to study a problem to death. Other days the only fight I want to participate in is a food fight. Then I want to make sure that everyone in the fight gets at least one pie in the face. Anything to be fair.

The first word out of my mouth was “y’all”. Before I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my mama had me saying, “Y’all come back, you hear?” Like good old Abe, I walked uphill to school five miles, then I walked five miles uphill to get home. I know Abe may not have done that but it sure sounds good on my resume. And who am I to call Abe a liar? You can, if you want. That is your prerogative. Next thing you’ll be saying is that Abe didn’t lick them vampires. At least, Abe read books, which is more than we can say for some presidents.

Early on, I spent a lot of my time curling up into a feeble position. Then I became an introvert who overcompensated. I learned to twerk at an early age. It was my way of mooning the world. As I grew older, I did my best to nip it in the butt. But, as you can see, it didn’t take.

Guess Seinfeld was right. There’s a whole lot of nothing that can be said about nothing and still say nothing. And this is only the first chapter. Just think. This could go on for nine seasons and you’d still have nothing. Makes me want to rejoice in the nothing that is not there and do it nada-istically.

Talk about adverbs. That’s one heck of an adverb. Nada-istically.

If you were writing your memoir, what would its theme be?

Waiting

It’s the waiting that gets you. Waiting to be born. Waiting on the doctor to give a physical. Waiting to get to age twenty-one. Waiting for an interview. Waiting in line for a Disney Ride. Waiting in line at the grocery store or at the movie theater for a ticket to a movie we don’t even want to see, then it turns out dreadful  the way we thought it would.

Oh, the anticipation.

Then there’s waiting on a date. Waiting on tables, then getting no tip for all your service. That sure hurts.  Waiting to get out of school. Waiting for your tax return. Waiting for someone to answer the 800 number you called. How many thousands of minutes do we spend in our lives waiting? What a way to spend a life. The waiting we do is almost as long as Proust’s memories of things past.

There’s a joke about waiting in line to get into the Pearly Gates. It goes something like this. Guy was waiting to be let into Heaven. He gets to St. Peter and St. Peter turns him away with, “You were so stingy in life that you married a woman named Penny. Get thee hence.” St. Peter points to the place downstairs. Second guy St. Peter says to, “You were such a drunk in life you married a woman named Brandy. Get thee hence.” Third guy waiting in line turns to the woman behind him, says, “Guess you know what that means, Fanny.” And he gets him hence.

Guess what? When you get thee hence you have to wait on the boatman. You reach into your pocket and find you don’t have the coin to pay him. There are no free rides. You’ll have to spend a lot of years, begging for a quarter, waiting for someone, anyone to help you out. Nobody can see you. You’re just thin air. So how are you going to get your two bits?

Here’s just one example of waiting which many of us go through: Asking a girl out for a first date. Or being asked out. You see her across the room, and you say to yourself, “Gee, sure would love to ask her out.” But you hesitate and wait to get up the nerve. What if she rejects you? I mean you’re a nice enough guy. You’ve been known to find stray animals a home. You may not look like George Clooney or Robert Redford or Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling but you do dress decent. You don’t have b.o. or bad breath. At least, as far as you know. So why is it that your feet feel like lead as you walk across that room? When you get to her, you stutter your way through your first words.

And, girls, you see the guy across the room. He looks like a nice guy, the kind of guy you might want to go out with. You’ve heard that he may be interested in you. There you stand, chatting with your friends, waiting for him to come over. Every so often you look his way. Hoping he’ll get the hint. But he seems clueless. You think maybe you should go over and ask him out. But what would he think? So you stand where you are, waiting for him to make his move.

Guys, you head on over to her. Stumble over the word, “Hello”, give her your best smile and continue with the “Are you enjoying the dance?” Then you go for the gold. “Would you like to go out?” It’s with fear and trembling that you wait for her answer.

“Sure,” she says. “What did you have in mind?” She waits on pins and needles for an answer.

Now that is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. If you say a movie, you won’t get to talk. It will take the pressure off. Help you get comfortable with her. So you ask, “Want to go to a movie?” You give her the name of some chick flick you think she might want to see. Then you wait.

Girls, he’s asked you to a movie. The last three dates you’ve been on have been movies.The guys always pick something you really don’t want to see. Now this guy is doing the same as all the rest. But he’s asking you to a movie you really want to see. At least, he’s put some thought into it. So, you say, “Sure.”

What’s next? Girls, you’re going to have to pick just the right thing to wear. You go through your closet, going no to this dress and definitely not to that dress. The night of the date you’re on pins and needles, waiting, hoping.

Guys, you don’t want to be too early. She’ll think you’re too anxious. So you wait till the last minute. Then you show up at her door and she opens it. The dress she’s wearing is your favorite color and she’s smiling. That’s a good sign. A very good sign.

Girls, he even opens the car door for you. Your last three dates just said, “Jump in.” This guy is a gentleman like your dad. This is looking positive. Downright positive. Maybe this guy is the One. He even buys you popcorn and a drink for the movie. “Why don’t we share?” you ask.

Guys, she wants to share her popcorn with you. It looks like you hit the jackpot when you picked this movie. You’re watching the movie but you’re not thinking about it. You’re thinking about whether you should ask her if she would like to go out for coffee afterwards. But you have to make it through the hour-and-a-half long movie.The waiting for the end is killing you.

Girls, you can’t keep your mind on the movie. You’re wondering what will happen after it’s over.Waiting for him to put a move on you. Trying to decide whether you’ll let him.

After the movie, guys, you ask her out for a drink. Instead of coffee, you suggest a little wine bar around the corner.

Girls, he’s asked you for a drink. Is he wanting to get you drunk? Maybe he thinks you’re easy. But you get to the bar, have several glasses of wine with some cheese. The two of you have this good conversation going. You’re thoroughly enjoying yourself.

Guys, now it’s time to take her to her door. This is the part you always hate. The evening went well. Now there’s the close. Some guys would make a pass. But you’re not that kind of guy. You really like this girl. Would it be too much to do the goodnight kiss? You wait for that perfect moment to try for an answer.

Girls, you’re at the door and he’s telling you how much he enjoyed the movie and the conversation. Is he going to make a move on you? Try to get you into bed? A couple of guys you dated made their move at the door. You had one heck of a time getting rid of them. Thought you might even have to call the cops. You’re just waiting for him to turn out to be one of those kind of guys..

Guys, you take her hand as you’re saying goodnight. Finally you get up your nerve and lean over and give her a goodnight kiss. It’s not a passionate kiss, that will have to wait for another time. It’s the kind of kiss that says I like you and I would like to see you again. Then you ask, “Can I see you again?” She shakes her head yes. You watch as she opens the door and goes inside.

Girls, you close the door. You’re almost giddy that this guy may just be in your future. As you get undressed and crawl into bed, you spoil the night you just had. You start asking, “Why didn’t he make a pass? At least, a little one? Am I not sexy enough?” You’ll just have to wait to see if you blew it.

Guys, you’re driving home and you’re smiling. You enjoyed the evening. It was everything you hoped. Then that old doubt creeps in. What if she expected you to stay the night? How long do you have to wait to find out?

Girls, just about the time you are dozing off, your cell rings. You pick it up. It’s him. It’s HIM.

And so it goes, on and on. It’s a lot for one word to bear but “waiting” is the word. And it does bear up under the weight very well..

What does the word “waiting” remind you of?