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January 23, 1930, Castries, Saint Lucia
Died: March 17, 2017, Saint Lucia
Derek Walcott, whose intricately metaphorical poetry captured the physical beauty of the Caribbean, the harsh legacy of colonialism and the complexities of living and writing in two cultural worlds, bringing him a Nobel Prize in Literature, died early Friday morning at his home near Gros Islet in St. Lucia. He was 87.
His great skill, and gift to literature, was the way in which he used his unique poetic voice to explore and explain the world from a largely unseen perspective.
He was never parochial or nationalistic, quite the opposite in fact. Derek Walcott was a master at using the specific to identify common ground and universal themes, illuminating both the individual and the collective.
Walcott wrote dozens of books of poetry and plays, among them his epic poem Omeros and his Obie-winning drama, Dream on Monkey Mountain.
Brilliant poets find one another: their world is very small even though their influence is wide and deep. Being a self-described “country boy” didn’t mean that Derek was cut off from so-called literary society. Derek’s closest poet friends, the Russian-born Joseph Brodsky and Irish poet Seamus Heaney, wrote about the pain and fascinating distance and longing that comes with being in exile.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Moring Paramin Derek Walcott and Peter Doig (See art by Peter Doig)
Photograph: From left: Tatyana Tolstaya; Mark Strand; Susan Sontag; Richard Locke, chairman of the School of the Arts Writing Division, and Derek Walcott.