Sir Derek Walcott was one of the greatest poets of his time, capturing the essence of the Caribbean in his works. The award-winning poet and playwright passed at the age of 87 in his native St. Lucia last Friday, leaving behind a towering literary legacy.
Walcott was born January 30, 1930 in Cap Estate, Gros-Islet, St. Lucia. His parents, both immersed in the world of poetry, passed on their appreciation of the arts to their three children. Walcott’s twin brother, the late Roderick Walcott, became a playwright himself.
At 18, Walcott began publishing the first of his written works while studying at the University College of the West Indies in Jamaica. After leaving the university, Walcott settled in Trinidad in 1953 and worked in a variety of capacities as a writer and teacher.
In 1962, Walcott landed on the international map with the release of his poetry collection, featuring work from 1948 to 1960. In 1970, his play Dream On Donkey Mountain was produced by NBC-TV and the following year, it won an Obie Award for Best Foreign Play. In 1972, Walcott was knighted under the British Government’s Order of the British Empire. Walcott created over 30 plays in his lifetime.
The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Walcott in 1992 amid several honors earned over the course of his career. Most critics point to his 1990 work, “Omeros” as his greatest work, inspired by Homer’s Iliad. Walcott also worked as a teacher at Boston University for two decades during which time he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
Walcott continued to publish works well into the 21st Century, and also taught at the University of Alberta and the University of Essex. In February 2016, he was one of the first individuals knighted under the Order of Saint Lucia.
Walcott, who married three times, is survived by three adult children.
PHOTO: Bert Nienhius
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.