Derek Walcott (1930-2017)
Postcolonialism / Contemporary Literature
When poet and dramatist Derek Walcott was awarded the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Committee lauded his work for its “great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.” Walcott, born on the island of St. Lucia in 1930, began writing poetry as a teenager. His poems are characterized by themes of religious devotion as well as the postcolonial implications of living in a community that was formerly a British colony. He first became known for his poetry collection published in 1962 entitled In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960. This volume of poems was characterized by his exploration of Caribbean history. In 1971, his poetic play Dream on Monkey Mountain won an Obie Award for its representation of West Indian life by weaving together strands of folklore, allegory, and fable. Walcott’s masterpiece is generally considered to be his long poem Omeros, published in 1990, which is a re imagining of The Iliad in a modern Caribbean setting. Walcott taught at the University of Alberta, Harvard University, and Boston University. He died in 2017 in St. Lucia.
Consider while reading:
- What elements from Greek mythology do you see in this excerpt from Walcott’s Omeros?
- How has Walcott adapted the story of The Iliad to a Caribbean setting?
- In “The Bounty,” Walcott references both the mutiny on the ship The Bounty, and he also makes numerous references to Christian faith through mentions of John Clare. Do some research on both of these subjects to explore Walcott’s use of them in his poem.
Written by Anita Turlington