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Derek Walcott Poem

Question 1

(Suggested time—40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay score.)

In the following poem by Caribbean writer Derek Walcott, the speaker recalls a childhood experience of visiting an elderly woman storyteller. Read the poem carefully. Then, in a well-developed essay, discuss the speaker’s recollection and analyze how Walcott uses poetic devices to convey the significance of the experience.


With the frenzy of an old snake shedding its skin,

the speckled road, scored with ruts, smelling of mold,

twisted on itself and reentered the forest

where the dasheen[1] leaves thicken and folk stories begin.

Sunset would threaten us as we climbed closer

to her house up the asphalt hill road, whose yam vines

wrangled over gutters with the dark reek of moss,

the shutters closing like the eyelids of that mimosa[2]

called Ti-Marie; then—lucent as paper lanterns,

lamplight glowed through the ribs, house after house—

there was her own lamp at the black twist of the path.

There’s childhood, and there’s childhood’s aftermath.

She began to remember at the minute of the fireflies,

to the sound of pipe water banging in kerosene tins,

stories she told to my brother and myself.

Her leaves were the libraries of the Caribbean.

The luck that was ours, those fragrant origins!

Her head was magnificent, Sidone. In the gully of her voice

shadows stood up and walked, her voice travels my shelves.

She was the lamplight in the stare of two mesmerized boys

still joined in one shadow, indivisible twins.


“XIV” from MIDSUMMER by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1984 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC and Faber and Faber Ltd.

[1] dasheen: tropical plant with large leaves

[2] mimosa: tropical plant whose leaves close or droop when touched or shaken

DMU Timestamp: July 23, 2020 19:52

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