18 pages 36 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Almond Trees

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1985

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Literary Devices


At first read, “The Almond Trees” appears to be anything but formally structured. The stanzas are obviously irregular, alternating between 4 and 5 lines apparently at random. The lines themselves are irregular in length, some lines are sentences, some fragments, some only two words. Some lines (even stanzas) move directly into the next (enjambment), while others close in end-punctuation. There is no reassuringly anticipated rhythm and certainly no evident rhyme scheme. The poem itself moves from image to image restlessly—the cold morning ocean to the old fisherman with his dog to the sea-almond trees to the brutal sun to the sunbathers. Yet much as the poem thematically argues the necessary and vital ties among those images, how they find their way to an organic whole by being so disparate, the form reveals a carefully balanced irregularity, intricately created to appear chaotic.

Thus, Walcott crafts poetry, his art, using the formal device of irregularity. The poem is both carefully designed and spontaneous. The poem draws on two distinctly different formal structures and yet resists any disruptive haphazard feeling. The outcome is a sense of fusion, which thematically relates to the Caribbean culture itself as it fuses the customs and traditions of its European roots and the lively animation of its indigenous identity.