What’s it like to meet one of your literary heroes? From my experience it mimics all the symptoms of a minor heart attack or some sort of palpitation. I felt such tremors when I met Derek Walcott, Neil LaBute and oh, John Patrick Shanley. My heart felt ablaze and tongue heavy as lead every time. I think my intellectual passion is more developed than any other primitive urge, no man has affected me more than the written word. The owner’s of such language, will in my world always be consorts of the highest esteem but their words; kings and queens.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many distinguished creators and artists. Including two of the founders and pioneers of Caribbean theatre; Albert Laveau and Derek Walcott. Mr. Laveau as i like to call him, became my mentor in a way as he aided me in achieving my thespian aspirations once upon a time. He’s a true throwback to the elegance of Trinidadian men that once was and knows everything about anything, he’s also an esteemed actor and throughout his life, collected friendships with folks like Arthur Miller, Seamus Heaney and of course Derek Walcott. Mr. Walcott, the Nobel Laureate has been my favorite wordsmith as far back as i can remember. His work has always been a reliable aid in explaining many a personal quandary in my life. Describing the unerring Caribbean experience to a foreigner is simple if you hand them one of his poems, in my opinion at least.
“The sun drumming, drumming…”
Though i feel my island is falling apart in so many ways, and our brotherly binds are loosening everyday, if i read a Walcott poem; i’m hopeful. Call it delusion but it’s a lasting bind to my heritage and home that i hope will stay put no matter where i end up. His connection to the islands is unmoving and a poignant reminder of what we are yes, but also what we can be again. So meeting him recently was weighted in my reliance on this man to be a literary superhero. I went to see his most recent theatrical work, “O Starry, Starry Night,” I heard a shuffling behind me and saw the titan himself being helped to his chair, feeble but so present still. I turned and looked right at him, our eyes met, a nervous smile dancing on my lips. The play transcended expectation of course but all i could feel was his person across the aisle. He’s a human being i know, nothing reveals mortality more than time and he’s succumbed to it as we all will. But still, to me he is immortal in his creations, and shall be always. After the curtain fell, i got up and walked past his seat, met his gaze again and forced words out of my shaking frame. “Beautiful work Sir,” I meant it. I trembled all the way home, heart attack in full swing.
I have to believe these encounters mean something and are more than just seasonings on my existence. Life is funny that way, our path is spread out in front of us haphazardly, but along it we’re shown a point of reference, a beacon in that starry, starry night.