“Still persuade us to rejoice” : witness, place, and gratitude in W.H. Auden and Derek Walcott’s poetry.


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My dissertation considers W.H. Auden and Derek Walcott’s stereoscopic poetic witness. It focuses on movement, place, and gratitude in the Atlantic world, as both authors recurrently travel beyond national boundaries. Both poets use a stereoscopic vision, a nuanced imaginative rendering of the anguish displacement and trauma engenders and the gratitude for a return to place that they seek through the gift of poetry. Their work therefore focuses on the tension between home, belonging, and exile. Auden witnesses the global upheaval of World War Two, the terror totalitarian regimes wreak, and the destruction science and technology might inflict in the wrong hands, as well as the ways that poetry, when properly limited, helps humans work toward a return to place, which once achieved, yields a sense of gratefulness. My two chapters on Auden consider his epistolary and mythic witness, through his use of the verse epistle form and myth to enact his poetic vision. Likewise, Walcott’s witness laments and conveys anger at the cruel and callous treatment of the Caribbean by colonial and postcolonial authorities, while also using poetry to circumvent this destructive history and reimagine the Caribbean's place in the world through his poetry, which he perceives as a gift. My two Walcott chapters focus on his twilight tension between cultures, in the epic poem Omeros and the book-length poem Tiepolo’s Hound.



W.H. Auden. Derek Walcott. Witness. Place. Displacement. Gratitude. Ekphrasis.