The audience applaud Chinua Achebe and then Derek Walcott and then it was my turn to take the stage. Mr Achebe read from a live video link and Mr Walcott via audio link. I left Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jean Binta Breeze back stage, walked up to the podium and read for Lorna Goodison from Walcott’s White Egrets.
In Virginia a week or so ago author Fred D’aguiar spoke to me of the wonder of this book. It feels right to read the lament. If the past is a foreign country a poem is the foreigner come home. I drive home tonight through the phosphorous cross beams of London traffic. In White Egrets Walcott reaches out his arm and strokes the membrane between life and breath.
The lumbering Ash Cloud stopped him from being at The Southbank centre in person. It paws across the sky like a Bear. It’ll stop Gil Scott Heron from being in the same theatre space tomorrow evening. And no doubt it will stop my plane from flying to Namibia on Wednesday.