2 minute read

Derek Walcott (Derek Alton Walcott) Biography

(1930– ), (Derek Alton Walcott), In a Green Night, The Castaway, The Star-Apple Kingdom

West Indian poet and playwright, born in Castries, St Lucia, educated at the University College of the West Indies; he worked as schoolteacher before pursuing a career in journalism from 1956 onward. In 1959 he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, where a number of his plays were first performed. From 1981 he has held a succession of visiting professorships at American universities. In a Green Night (1962), the first widely distributed collection of his poetry, was acclaimed for the fluency with which he applied traditional verse forms to richly perceptive treatments of Caribbean experience. His numerous subsequent volumes, in which an increasing flexibility is evident in his virtuosity as a versifier, include The Castaway (1965), The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979), The Fortunate Traveller (1981), The Arkansas Testament (1987), and Omeros (1990). Much of his writing coheres around his concern to define his identity as a product of both the indigenous traditions of the West Indies and the European culture by which he is equally sustained. His verse is characterized by the lucid particularity of its imagery and the great variety and power of its rhythmical effects. Collected Poems 1948–1984 appeared in 1986. The integrity and range of his engagement with moral and spiritual themes of universal significance have gained him an international reputation as one of the finest poets of his generation. His work as a dramatist began with numerous treatments of Caribbean history, of which Henri Christophe (1950) is the best-known. Drawing deeply on West Indian folklore, his plays combine verse and prose and make extensive use of Creole vocabulary. The Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (1970) was his first major publication as a playwright, the title work forming a mythical exposition of the relevance of the past to the present. Among his other plays are The Last Carnival, dealing with effects of political radicalism on a French-Creole family; A Branch of the Blue Nile, which centres on conflicts within a small drama company; and Beef, no Chicken, a treatment of municipal corruption; these were collected as Three Plays in 1986. His stage version of The Odyssey was published in 1993. Walcott received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992; his Nobel Lecture was published as The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory (1993).

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Richard Vaughan Biography to Rosanna Warren Biography