March 27, 2003
Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott
to Read at Smith
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.--Smith College will
host a poetry reading by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and emerging
poet Melissa Green at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, in Wright
Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, bringing
Caribbean literature to international attention. Born in St.
Lucia, West Indies, of Black, Dutch, and English descent, he
grew up speaking Creole patois at home and learning English in
school. Author of dozens of books -- poems, essays, plays --
Walcott has garnered countless honors, including a MacArthur
"genius" grant. He has transformed the imperial English
of the West Indies into what poet Alison Hawthorne Deming calls
"a new way of singing."
Walcott's interest in drama dates back to his college days. After
graduating from the University of the West Indies, he was awarded
a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation to study the American
theater, after which he returned to the Caribbean to found the
Trinidad Theater Workshop, which produced many of his early plays.
He went on to win an Obie Award for "Dream on Monkey Mountain,"
and his poetic dramas have been produced by the New York Shakespeare
Festival, the Mark Taper Forum and the Negro Ensemble Company.
But Walcott is best known for his lush and incantatory verse.
He has been incorporating Shakespearean and biblical beauty with
rich Caribbean rhythms for four decades, from the first collection,
"Green Night," to the recent "Tiepolo's Hound."
Walcott's epic poem "Omeros" weaves classical
Greek, African, English and Island traditions into a new kind
of origin myth.
Unafraid of the majestic, he also plumbs the particular, exploring
cultural divisions of language and race, as well as issues of
isolation and estrangement. "Either I'm a nobody, or I'm
a nation," he writes, speaking to the personal and the historical
at once. As author Pico Iyer suggested in Time magazine,
"there is no more serious, or more sonorous, writer living."
Walcott is also an accomplished painter. He teaches at Boston
University, but still calls St. Lucia home.
Green is a poet's poet, quietly garnering the respect of such
distinguished voices as Walcott and Joseph Brodsky, whom she
translated for a recent collection of Nativity poems. Green's
work has appeared in Yale Review, Agni, Paris Review and The
New York Review of Books.
Her celebrated first volume, "The Squanicook Eclogues,"
four long poems that weave memory and landscape with an almost
religious understanding of the passage of time, received
the Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America 1989
and the Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the Academy of American
Poets. Of "The Squanicook Eclogues," Walcott
wrote, "Responsibility and delight are the tone of
the true poet, a joy in the craft that supercedes its themes,
however afflicted, and on every page of this book Melissa Green's
reverential elations uplift and soothe the reader as naturally
and cleanly as the morning wind."
Hailed by Amy Clampitt as "a born, a natural poet,"
Green is also the author of the harrowing and exquisite "Color
is the Suffering of Light: A Memoir." She lives in Winthrop,
This reading is supported by Peggy Block Danziger and Richard
Danziger and will be followed by a bookselling and signing. For
more information, call Cindy Furtek in the Smith College Poetry
Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson,
Poetry Center director, at (413) 585-3368.