NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Vol 17.2: Fall 2017 - Page 42

If you ever find yourself, some where lost and surrounded by enemies who won’t let you speak in your own language who destroy your statues & instruments, who ban your omm bomm ba boom then you are in trouble deep trouble they ban your own boom ba boom you in deep deep trouble humph! probably take you several hundred years to get  out!  The passage through creative cycles of Life and Death to discover Form and Transformation is not uncommon to Derek and August on their journeys toward achieving immortality through their prodigious accomplishments, albeit through different lens; August viewing the specter of the Blues within his Pittsburgh Cycle — ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century that unearths the mythic residue of the Hill District — to affirm and reconstruct the fragmentation of Black life that existed on the margins of American history. August reflects on his passage toward enlightenment in the Preface to his Three Plays (1991): Writing a play is for me like walking down the landscape of the self, unattended, unadorned, exploring what D.H. Lawrence called “the dark forest of the soul.” It is a place rife with shadows, a place of suspect quality and occasional dazzling brightness. What you encounter there are your demons, which you have occasionally fed, trying, as Hansel, to make your way back home. You find false trails, roads closed for repairs, impregnable fortresses, scouts, armies of memory, and impossible cartography. It is a place where the cartographers labor night and day remaking the maps. The road is sometimes welcoming and its wide passages offer endearment with each step only to narrow to a footpath that has led you, boatless, to the edge of a vast and encompassing ocean. Occasionally, if you are willing to negotiate the perils, you arrive strong, brighter of spirit, to a place that sprouts yams and bolls of cotton at your footfall.” Derek, on the other hand, fixed his sights on revivifying the language of his native land in the process of re-imaging an Odysseus-mode journey that resulted in his epic poem, Omeros, a freshly authenticated articulation — as opposed to mimicry — that alchemically transforms the familiar Homeric plot into a Caribbean point of view that elicits new illumination on the aspirations and realities of the islanders, prompting Hilton Als, writing in a 2004 issue of The New Yorker, to recognize the achievement as a “masterpiece” that is “the perfect marriage of Walcott’s classicism and his nativism.” Omeros — the Greek name of Homer — dissimilar from linear construction of the Greek classics, is a circular, non-linear narrative in five books that magically cuts across time and space, bringing to mind for one critic the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered mural-scale cloth that illustrates the Norman conquest of England, to chart the agonies of displacement suffered by the Native Indians, the despair of African enslavement on the isle of St. Lucia, and strains on English colonials adrift in exile. It is a narrative propelled by the journey of two local island fishermen, Achille and Hector — echoes, perhaps, but not character templates from The Iliad — who are rivals for the affection of the beautiful housemaid, Helen…(a libidinal Helen of Troy). At a certain moment, Achille makes a spiritual journey to his ancestors located in the African settlement where he discovers his family’s original language, learns his true name, and lives their traditional life, before walking back to St. Lucia on the bottom of the ocean. 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