21 pages 42 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Schooner Flight

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1979

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Biographical Context: “Poet Versus Persona”

Much scholarship surrounds the blurred lines between the poem’s central character, Shabine, and Walcott himself. To understand the links between poet and persona, it is necessary to examine their overlapping biographical details. While Shabine is from Trinidad, Walcott was born and raised in a nearby West Indies island, Saint Lucia. Walcott was raised in the island’s capital city of Castries, which appears in section 7 of the poem, “The Flight Anchors in Castries Harbor.” With Walcott’s youth in mind, the nostalgia that infuses the opening lines resonates even more powerfully: “When the stars self were young over Castries / I loved you alone and I loved the whole world” (Lines 60-61).

Walcott was born with English, Dutch, and African heritage, putting him in the socially complex plight of a racially diverse Carib. The poem explores this same plight through Shabine’s complicated and shifting relationship with his background. Shabine even shares the same ethnic ancestry, as he declares “I have Dutch, n*****, and English in me / and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation” (Lines 42-43). Many similarities between Walcott and Shabine proceed from this shared plight of ethnic liminality in Caribbean island culture. Additionally both are passionate poets who write about this situation.