analysis of Derek Walcott`s poem

Poetry Prompt
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 welldeveloped paragraph, discuss the speaker’s recollection and analyze how Walcott uses a poetic
device to convey the significance of the experience.
Preparing To Write
1. First I answered the question in the prompt: what is the significance of the speaker’s
experience at the storyteller’s house?
a. She was a positive influence during his childhood.
b. How do I know this? Walcott repeatedly describes her using images of light.
2. Then I decided which poetic device to analyze – it was easy because it was the one that
helped me figure out the significance of the experience. I confirmed my choice by going
back through the poem to see if there were enough instances to write about.
Mrs. Skotnicki’s Example Paragraph
The light and dark imagery in Derek Walcott’s poem, “XIV,” illustrates the important
role the storyteller played in the speaker’s youth. Reflecting back, the speaker remembers
traveling at nightfall in the company of his twin, “threatened” by “sunset,” as they climb the hill
toward the storyteller Sidone’s house. The negative effects of impending darkness are offset by
the lights within the houses on the way. As the speaker and his brother walk uphill they are
beckoned forth by the “lamplight” that “glowed through the ribs,” as if from the warm hearts of
the other dwellings. Moreover, the storyteller’s own “lamp” stands near a “black twist of the
path,” implying that the speaker’s memories of childhood are not entirely straightforward.
Walcott explains, “There’s childhood and there’s childhood’s aftermath,” as though the twist in
the path represents a line that divides the moment between innocence and innocence lost and the
storyteller’s house sits at exactly this crux. The speaker remembers that Sidone’s tales begin “at
the minute of the fireflies,” or when sparks of light illuminate an otherwise dark sky. And when
the storyteller speaks, “shadows stood up and walked,” reinforcing the idea that she – as light –
can control the movement of shadow. Her “lamplight” draws the gaze of “two mesmerized
boys,” then an indivisible shadow. In his recollection of Sidone, the speaker repeatedly
characterizes her using images of lightness and these images push back against the encroaching
shadows. Through Walcott’s contrasting imagery the reader understands the storyteller to have
been a positive force, one capable of dispelling the darkness of “childhood’s aftermath” and the
implied separation of the speaker from his twin.
11 sentences
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