Reading Love After Love: Derek Walcott and Greeting the Self

Derek WalcottI want to share another poem—this one on loving the self—by Saint Lucian poet, playwright, and essayist Derek Walcott (b. 1930). Walcott, currently Professor of Poetry at University of Essex, has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship “genius award” (1981) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1992). His work spans not only time, but the full range of thought and emotion—from politics, colonization and history, to romance, rage and, of course, love. To read his work is to transcend, to be transported and to be transformed.

“I read; I travel; I become.” —Derek Walcott

The poem was originally published in Walcott’s Sea Grapes (1976), and is part of the collection 100 Poems that Make Grown Men Cry (2014). Like all the best poetry, it speaks for itself, so I am going to say only this: Love After Love does not make this grown woman cry. Its effect on me, in fact, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. For one day—perhaps today—I will greet myself and smile. I wish you the same.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


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