‘Feast on your life’: Tom Hiddleston on Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” for accepting ourselves

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Derek Walcott, a Saint Lucian poet and playwright. Source: VIII Festival Internacional de Poesía en Granada, 2012.

“I read it to my dearest friends after dinner once, and to my family at Christmas, and they started crying. Which always, unfailingly, makes me cry.”

– Tom Hiddleston on “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott

In Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden, actor Tom Hiddleston (known for roles in The Avengers and War Horse) selected “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott as his choice for the anthology.

He describes how he reads the poem often, at least once a month, as an antidote to “the madness and mayhem of modern life, where every man seems committed to an endless search for the approval and esteem of his fellows and peers, no matter what the cost”.

After all, as the actor explains,

Most of us are motivated deep down by a sense of insufficiency, a need to be better, stronger, faster; to work harder; to be more committed, more kind, more self-sufficient, more successful. We are driven by a sense that we are not, as we are, ‘enough’.

“Love After Love” alternatively, is “like a declaration of unconditional love” that asserts “we are each of us whole, perfectly imperfect, enough.”

We can read it to become more aware of the present moment, gain a sense of calm, and feel grateful for what we do have, rather than what we do not. It’s a powerful piece of writing that achieves this.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self […]

Read the full poem here, in Walcott’s Sea Grapes anthology, or his Selected Poems

For more healing poetry, soak in the wisdom of Mary Oliver’s gracefully honest poem for letting go, Auden’s poem about going about your own life when a loved one is suffering, and Nick Cave’s chosen “sad poem of loss” by Les Murray.

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