The Flight of the Vernacular: Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and the Impress of Dante
Rodopi, 2001 - 303 pages
In this book, Dante, Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott engage in an eloquent and meaningful conversation. Dante's capacity for being faithful to the collective historical experience and true to the recognitions of the emerging self, the permanent immediacy of his poetry, the healthy state of his language, which is so close to the object that the two are identified, and his adamant refusal to get lost in the wide and open sea of abstraction - all these are shown to have affected, and to continue to affect, Heaney's and Walcott's work. The Flight of the Vernacular, however, is not only a record of what Dante means to the two contemporary poets but also a cogent study of Heaney's and Walcott's attitude towards language and of their views on the function of poetry in our time. Heaney's programmatic endeavour to be "adept at dialect" and Walcott's idiosyncratic redefinition of the vernacular in poetry as tone rather than as dialect - apart from having Dantean overtones - are presented as being associated with the belief that poetry is a social reality and that language is a living alphabet bound to the "opened ground" of the world.