Latin name -Ardea alba
Family - Bitterns and herons(Ardeidae)
The Great White Egret, is almost identical to little Egrets, but obviously they are much larger – around the same size as a Grey Heron. The identification features to be aware of are, black feet as opposed to yellow, and a yellow beak (in juvenile and non-breeding plumage), they also use a different fishing technique like that of the grey heron, living off fish, insects and frogs, caught by spearing with its long, sharp beak.
White Egrets is also the title of the Fourteenth collection of poetry from Derek Walcott. Born in St Lucia in 1930, he studied at the University College of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica). Walcott published his first poem at 14 and by 19 had self-published his two first collections - 25 Poems (1948) and Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949) which he distributed himself. But it was his collection - In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962) exploring the Caribbean and it’s history in a colonialist and post-colonialist context that saw him gain an international public profile. He has since published eight collections of plays, a collection of essays, as well as his volumes of poetry, including an epic poem (Omeros), in which he invokes the spirit and people of his homeland through Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. In 1992 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he is also an honorary member of the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters.
This his latest collection won this years T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, the chair for this years prize was Anne Stevenson & she said that
"the judges felt that Derek Walcott's White Egrets was a moving, risk-taking and technically flawless book by a great poet."
In this collection of poetry, “Derek Walcott treats his characteristic subjects – the Caribbean’s complex colonial legacy, the Western artistic tradition, the blessings and withholdings of old Europe (Andalucía, the Mezzogiorno, Amsterdam), the unaccommodating sublime of the new world, times cunning passages, the poets place in all of this – with a passionate intensity and drive that rivals his greatest work” .
Yet reading these poems you soon realise another figure stalks the landscape, that with the passing of time, there’s loss, there’s death, whether this is of friends, or the death of love, or just unrequited love, stillborn with regret. In these beautiful poems you get visions of a man looking back on his life, looking back with regret, with humour, but looking back from the perspective that this may be his last call, but this is a not a legacy, there is too much passion for that.
For Oliver Jackman
It’s what others do, not us, die, even the closest
on a vainglorious, glorious morning, as the song goes,
the yellow or golden palms glorious and all the rest
a sparkling splendour, die. They’re practising calypsos,
they’re putting up and pulling down tents, vendors are slicing
the heads of coconuts around the savannah, men
are leaning on, then leaping into pirogues, a moon will be rising
tonight in the same place over Morne Coco, then
the full grief will hit me and my heart will toss
like a horse’s head or a thrashing bamboo grove
that even you could be part of the increasing loss
that is the daily dial of the revolving shade. love
lies underneath it all though, the more surprising
the death, the deeper the love, the tougher the life.
The pain is over, feathers close your eyelids, Oliver.
What a happy friend and what a fine wife!
Your death is like our friendship beginning over.
I love this line – “then the full grief will hit me and my heart will toss like a horse’s head…” and this collection is full of such images, rising from the landscape, some remembered scene, told with a cadence like the sound of the shoreline, once remembered in an old seashell, and that memory, that repetition of images plays out over the pages, sometimes with a caution to the passion, sometimes just bursting with grief and regret………. and yet a gentle humour, a sly gentle humour.