St. Lucian poet and playwright, Sir Derek Alton Walcott died today at his home at Cap Estate at the age of 87. The 1992 Nobel laureate for Literature is said to have been hospitalised for a while, before his recent release from hospital. Walcott, who is arguably the greatest writer from the Caribbean first trained as a painter under Harold Simmons. He was the second Caribbean writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature after Saint-John Perse won it in 1960.
Throughout his career, Walcott delved on themes around language power and place. At the age of 14 he had published his first poem ‘1944’ in The Voice of St. Lucia. Walcott moved to Trinidad in 1953 and founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. He went ahead to teach in various universities in the U.S. such as Boston, Rutgers, Columbia and Yale. He was also a Professor of Poetry at the Essex University from 2010 to 2013.
Walcott had many prizes under his belt including the Obie Award in 1971 for his play Dream on Monkey Mountain, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, the inaugural OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for his book of poetry White Egrets and the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry Lifetime Recognition Award in 2015.
— Benjamin Ramm (@BenjaminRamm) March 17, 2017
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) March 17, 2017
His greatest work is considered to be Omeros, an epic poem reimagining the Trojan War. The poem was among the Best Books of 1990 in a list compiled by the New York Times Boo k Review.
The Nobel committee portrayed his work as “a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.”
In his Nobel Prize speech he said of poetry:
Poetry, which is perfection’s sweat but which must seem as fresh as the raindrops on a statue’s brow, combines the natural and the marmoreal; it conjugates both tenses simultaneously: the past and the present, if the past is the sculpture and the present the beads of dew or rain on the forehead of the past. There is the buried language and there is the individual vocabulary, and the process of poetry is one of excavation and of self-discovery
The news of his death has been met with an out-pour of emotions on social media.
A giant has gone to sleep. RIP Derek Walcott
— Kei Miller (@keimiller) March 17, 2017
Saddened to hear of Derek Walcott's passing today.
Seen here with Seamus Heaney in Dún Laoghaire DART station, 1989 [photo: Matt Kavanagh] pic.twitter.com/13dximzpRU
— Patrick (@p_loughnane) March 17, 2017
— Lapham's Quarterly (@LaphamsQuart) March 17, 2017
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) March 17, 2017
— Cassava Republic (@CassavaRepublic) March 17, 2017
Nobel prize winning poet and writer Derek Walcott passes away. A great son of the Caribbean pic.twitter.com/xdCLYA2sOI
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) March 17, 2017
Please read a poem by Derek Walcott today pic.twitter.com/lnUa3O960s
— The Poetry Society (@PoetrySociety) March 17, 2017
— Poets.org (@POETSorg) March 17, 2017
— Kwame Dawes (@kwamedawes) March 17, 2017