Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, Caribbean poet, dies at 87

CASTRIES, Saint Lucia — Derek Walcott, a Nobel-prize winning poet known for capturing the essence of his native Caribbean and became the region’s most internationally famous writer, has died on the island of St. Lucia. He was 87.

Walcott died early Friday at his home in the eastern Caribbean nation of St. Lucia, according to his son, Peter. The family planned to issue a statement later.

The prolific and versatile poet received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992 after being shortlisted for the honour for many years. In selecting Walcott, the academy cited the great luminosity” of his writings including the 1990 “Omeros,” a 64-chapter Caribbean epic it praised as “majestic.”

“In him, West Indian culture has found its great poet,” said the Swedish academy in awarding the $1.2 million prize to Walcott.

Walcott, who was of African, Dutch and English ancestry, said his writing reflected the “very rich and complicated experience” of life in the Caribbean. His dazzling, painterly work earned him a reputation as one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century.

With passions ranging from watercolour painting to teaching to theatre, Walcott’s work was widely praised for its depth and bold use of metaphor, and its mix of sensuousness and technical prowess. He compared his feeling for poetry to a religious avocation.

Soviet exile poet Joseph Brodsky, who won the Nobel literature prize in 1987, once complained that some critics relegated Walcott to regional status because of “an unwillingness … to admit that the great poet of the English language is a black man.”

Walcott himself proudly celebrated his role as a Caribbean writer.

“I am primarily, absolutely a Caribbean writer,” he once said during a 1985 interview published in The Paris Review. “The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself. I have never felt inhibited in trying to write as well as the greatest English poets.”

Walcott was born in St. Lucia’s capital of Castries on Jan. 23, 1930 to a Methodist schoolteacher mother and a civil servant father, an aspiring artist who died when Walcott and his twin brother, Roderick, were babies. His mother, Alix, instilled the love of language in her children, often reciting Shakespeare and reading aloud other classics of English literature.

In his autobiographical essay, “What the Twilight Says,” he wrote: “Both the patois of the street and the language of the classroom hid the elation of discovery. If there was nothing, there was everything to be made. With this prodigious ambition one began.”

Walcott once described straddling “two worlds” during his childhood in St. Lucia, then a sleepy outpost of the British empire. Read more

Source: Soo Today