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Post The Passing of Two Greats: Berry and Walcott
Created by John Eipper on 03/19/17 7:27 AM

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The Passing of Two Greats: Berry and Walcott (John Heelan, UK, 03/19/17 7:27 am)

Two of my heroes died this week--Chuck Berry (Rock & Roll maestro) and Derek Walcott (Caribbean poet adopted by the US but born and died in his beloved St. Lucia--which I visited many years ago).

It has been a privilege to enjoy their works for a lifetime. The world is suddenly a poorer place.

JE comments:  Yes, it's been a sad week for culture.  The proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities makes it even sadder. 

Chuck Berry performed at Dartmouth College sometime in the early 1980s, and I didn't attend.  Too much homework?  Too many distractions?  I've regretted it ever since.

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  • Mourning Berry and Walcott (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 03/19/17 11:21 AM)
    I also mourn Chuck Berry and Derek Walcott. Having spent much of my teenage years and early twenties in the West Indies, and loving poetry and literature from an early age, I was drawn to the works of Walcott. I regret that I never made the effort to seek him out, especially when he was at the University of Essex.

    On the other hand, I will always cherish the evening in 1999 that I saw Chuck Berry perform. This was in a small venue holding less than a hundred people in the basement of Blueberry Hill, a funky restaurant (amazing burgers!) and club in St. Louis. Chuck spent most of his time on stage at the piano while his son played guitar, but he did attempt his famous Duck Walk. He performed all his hits which so influenced the Beatles, Stones etc.

    JE comments:  An uncanny coincidence (besides their dying one day apart):  Berry was born and died in St Louis, and Walcott in St Lucia.  (To be exact, Berry died in St Charles county, just outside the city.)

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    • In Praise of Cricket and Caribbean Literature (John Heelan, UK 03/21/17 4:07 AM)
      Similar to Tim Ashby (19 March), I spent many years mixing with Caribbean players in the cricketing world with their love of life, easily expressed joy and incessant banter between those from different Caribbean islands.

      I became attracted to the post-colonial works of Caribbean poets with their distinctive cadence and accents, especially performance poets like Benjamin Zephaniah--see "'Dis poetry" (https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/dis-poetry/ ).

      However I must admit that Walcott's version of the Odyssey and his other long poems did not start to make sense until I visited St. Lucia for a family wedding many years ago. Experiencing the environment, friendliness, outstanding weather and scenery enabled me to empathise with Walcott's deep feelings for his home island.

      JE comments: Well stated, from WAISdom's most esteemed islander! (John Heelan lives on the Isle of Wight.)  Now that I think about it, I've never visited any of the Anglophone islands of the Caribbean (Key West excepted).  How can that be?  A Hispanist's bias?

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    • St Louis and St Lucia (Edward Jajko, USA 03/21/17 4:18 AM)
      Heavens! "St. Louis" and "St. Lucia" is a coincidence? (See John E's comment on Tim Ashby's post of March 19th.)

      In the title "Saint" or its abbreviation? Surely not in the names, the one stemming from Germanic "Chlodowig" and the other from Latin "Lucius," itself derived from "Lux."

      JE comments: Pax et Chlodowig!  Much to a philologist's horror, I was stressing nothing more than the similar phonemes of the two saints.  Can we call this an example of convergent (etymological) evolution, like the deer and the kangaroo?


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