Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walcott on Naipaul

“A mongoose charges dry grass and fades through a fence faster than an afterthought”. A beautiful line from pre-Calabash Walcott-- Calabash 2008 will always be remembered for Walcott’s stunning denouement: the reading in public for the first time of his poem, The Mongoose, written specifically with V.S. Naipaul in mind.

The audience was left waiting to exhale, an inaudible gasp hovering under the tent as the Poet laureate dissed and dismissed his fellow laureate and literary giant, V.S. Naipaul in a series of the most poetically crafted insults. Aspiring DJs might want to take note--this is the stuff of great clashes—

As Channer said at Jack Sprat afterwards “A Beenie and Bounti u know”. Then who’s Kamau Brathwaite, I asked. “Capleton” said Colin without missing a beat.

“The anti-hero is a prick named Willy” intoned the Laureate, going on to describe Naipaul’s “exhausted works” as “predictable, unfunny”.

I wrote as furiously as I could, managing to capture a line here and a line there, all of them memorable if somewhat random. “The mongoose keeps its class act as a clown”; “…just as if a corpse took pride in its decay”; “small, grey and beady-eyed”; “the mongoose takes its orders from the Raj”; “the mutter from a maniacal, bitter mongoose”; “reward them with the spit of benediction”; “he told me once sex was just friction”; “now it was time to bite whatever hands had helped him.”

Coming in the wake of an interview of Walcott by Kwame Dawes, a founding director of Calabash and a poet himself, “The Mongoose” was payback for a recent Naipaul essay called “Caribbean Odyssey” in which he casts aspersions on Walcott’s talent. You can read more about this at Geoffrey Philp’s blog: Moral vs. Ethical Writing: Naipaul and Walcott

Meanwhile down here at Treasure Beach we give thanks for sunny skies and prickly poets. Willing conscripts in the enactment of a first-class literary feud we await the unfolding of Day 3 at Calabash with some relish. A mongoose will never just be a mongoose again. More anon.

8 comments:

geoffreyphilp101@gmail.com said...

Thanks for the link, Annie.

Hope to see you next year at Calabash!

Marlon James said...

Damn, Damn, Damn and i wasn't there to see it. At least Walcott remembers something that Naipaul has forgotten. If you're going to strike and artist, you have to strike with your art.

Marlon James said...

strike AN artist, I mean

Annie Paul said...

hey Marlon,

yes, don't it, we wish you were here too...kei was outstanding today and the two women who went before too...poor Greg had a hard time bringing up the rear!

ap

longbench said...

From I read the words "Mongoose" written in the post my breath stopped. Is he going to publish this thing, or was this a Calabash special? My cussing needs some improvement and wordsmiths like these are not easy to come by these days. For all that he is not in terms of manners, Walcott is still one of the best at laying out an insult...

atlas said...

I love it, I love it, I love it!
Hi Annie...it's JJ, just stopping by to say hey and that I had a great time in Treasure Beach...thanks!...Can't wait till next year...and I agree...Kei was great...had the whole place in stitches!

John R. said...

Hi Annie
just saying hello from Saint Lucia. Just found your blog. Will keep track. Good to have news from Calabash and to hear of the activities of our (prickly) beloved son DW.
Best to you
jrlee
will pass news of your blog on to others like kendel hippolyte et al.

Annie Paul said...

hi John,

i should have done this long ago but thanks for this. would love for Kendal to read the blog. very good to hear from you.

ap