Derek 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 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.


Poems by Derek Walcott

A Far Cry from Africa

Love after Love





    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2003