Collected Poems, 1948-84 by Derek Walcott

By Derek Walcott

A suite of poems by means of modern poet, Derek Walcott, whose topic is the landscape of lifestyles, panorama, tradition and politics of the West Indies.

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Similar recollections appear in poem XXX of Versos sencillos, where four stanzas of verse succinctly describe horrific experiences suffered by captured Africans: arrival on a slave ship, the unloading of naked and shackled bozales, the crack of a whip, swollen slave barracks, cries of women and children, and finally the spectacle of a black man hanged from a ceibo tree. In the fifth stanza, the child who bore witness to the hanging (Martí) swears at the foot of the dead man to redress the crime (16: 106–7).

South in 1889, Martí cautioned that when people of color showed signs of moving forward, conflicts would continue: “When the white man in the South sees the black man become his equal in the real aspects of life, he lynches the black man” (12: 324). Another theme repeated by Martí was that “social equality is nothing more than the acknowledgement of the equity visible in nature” (1: 321). Speaking of the universal identity of mankind in “Nuestra América,” he proclaimed that “the soul emanates equally and eternally from bodies diverse in form and color” (6: 22).

Jorge Camacho’s 2008 Islas article discusses how race is treated in Patria. His essay mentions the work of Helg and Guerra and notes that Martí addressed two race questions looming before Cuba: North American racism that could extend to Cuba and Cubans and fears on the island about how to incorporate blacks in a society that no longer had slaves. Camacho correlates Martí’s concern over fears of Afro-Cubans with Martí’s stubborn 30 · José Martí, the United States, and Race insistence that blacks were indebted to the independence war of 1868–78 that had declared slaves to be free.

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