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Hon. Derek Alton Walcott, OBE

Hon. Derek Alton Walcott, OBE

Hon. Derek Alton Walcott


Born:   23rd January, 1930, Castries, St. Lucia


St. Lucia’s most widely acclaimed poet and playwright is Derek Alton Walcott who in 1992 was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature after publishing his epic poem titled Omeros in 1990. Derek Walcott together with Maurice Mason founded the St. Lucia Arts Guild back in 1950. With the assistance of his twin brother, Roderick Walcott, the Guild paved the way for St. Lucia’s literary works and drama which produced St. Lucian artists of Caribbean and international merits such as Garth St. Omer and Dunstan St. Omer. Derek Walcott is best known for his poetry some of which can be found in his collection called In a Green Night. However, as an accomplished playwright some of his best performances include The Harrowing of Benjy, Dream on Monkey Mountain, The Sea at Dauphin, Pantomime, and Ti Jean and his Brothers. He has produced at least 30 plays many of which make use of themes from Caribbean folk culture. The Derek Walcott Square in Castries was named in his honour.

Source: Visit St. Lucia Anytime

The major West Indian poet and dramatist writing in English today. Derek Walcott has lived most of his life in Trinidad. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992. Walcott has studied the conflict between the heritage of European and West Indian culture, the long way from slavery to independence, and his own role as a nomad between cultures. His poems are characterized by allusions to the English poetic tradition and a symbolic imagination that is at once personal and Caribbean.

Poetry, which is perfection’s sweat but which must seem as fresh as the raindrops on a statue’s brow, combines the natural and the marmoreal; it conjugates both tenses simultaneously: the past and the present, if the past is the sculpture and the present the beads of dew or rain on the forehead of the past. There is the buried language and there is the individual vocabulary, and the process of poetry is one of excavation and of self-discovery.” (from the Nobel Lecture, 1992)

Derek Walcott was born at Castries, St Lucia, an isolated Caribbean island in the West Indies. His father, Warwick, was a Bohemian artist; he died when Walcott was very young. “I was raised in this obscure Caribbean poet,” he later wrote in a poem of his family, “where my bastard father christened me for his shire, / Warwick. The Bard’s country.” Walcott’s mother, Alix, was a teacher, born in Dutch St Maarten. She was very well read and also taught her children to love poetry.

Walcott educated at St Mary’s College, Castries. He received a scholarship to the University College of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, where he studied French, Latin and Spanish. His first play, Henri Christopher, was performed in 1950. In 1953 Walcott moved to Trinidad and in 1958-59 Walcott studied theater in New York. In Trinidad he worked for the local newspaper the Trinidad Guardian. Walcott’s marriage to Fay Moston, a secretary, broke up after a few years. His second wife, Margaret Maillard, was an almoner in a hospital. In 1976 he married Norline Metivier; the marriage also ended in divorce.

From 1953 to 1957 Walcott worked as a teacher at schools on several Caribbean islands. He then started his career as a journalist, writing features for Public Opinion in Kingston and features and drama critics for the Trinidad Guardian. In 1950 Walcott founded the St Lucia Arts Guild. He has worked as a professor of poetry at the University of Boston, and divided his time between Trinidad and the USA. Walcott also wrote a large number of plays for stage and radio.

In 2009 Walcott withdrew from the election of Oxford’s poetry professor. The reason behind Walcott’s decision was old allegations of sexual harassment while he was teaching a poetry workshop at Harvard. Another accusation from a Boston University student in 1996 was settled out of court. Walcott said that the election degenerated into character assassination. Ruth Padel, who was elected to the chair, resigned after it was revealed that she had been involved in the anonymous campaign. Walkott was appointed teacher of poetry in 2009 at the University of Alberta in Canada. He has also accepted a visiting professorship at the University of Essex in 2010.

As poet Walcott made his debut at the age of eighteen with Twenty-Five Poems, which was privately printed. His widespread recognition as a poet came with In a Green Night (1964). It manifested his primary aims: to create a literature truthful to the West Indian life. In The Fortunate Traveller (1981) and Midsummer(1984) Walcott explored his own situation as a black writer in America, who has become estranged from his Caribbean homeland. The very titles of such books asCastaway (1965) and The Gulf  (1969) referred to his feelings of artistic isolation and alienation. St. Lucia, where he was born, belongs to a belt of French-speaking islands. Walcott himself is a native English speaker and bilingual in also speaking Creole, the language of the rural areas.

During his trips to the United States and Europe in the 1960s, Walcott made friends with several writers in England and America. In an interview in Walcott said: “But there is still an isolation in the sense that, as West Indian writers, whether we live in London or the West Indies, we are both cut off from and are a part of a tradition.” Among the subjects Walcott has continually returned, is the story of Robinson Crusoe, and the multicultural mixture of identities. Walcott has rejected the label of “voice of the Caribbean people”, saying: “I’m not even interested in sharing feelings of the people, because those who have been asked to share the feelings of the people are the ones who get shot first.”

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,  Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?  I who have cursed  The drunken officer of British rule, how choose  Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?”  (from A Far Cry from Africa, 1962)

Walcott’s has called himself “a mulatto of style.” His most ambitious work is considered the epic poem Omeros (1990), which takes its title from the Greek word for ‘Homer’, and recalls the dramas of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in a Caribbean setting. It consist of sixty-four chapters divided into seven books. The central characters are two fishermen, Achilles and Philocrete. Among its subjects are sufferings of exile and the contemporary Caribbean life. The task of the bard is sing of lost lives and a new hope. The Odyssean figure of Shabine in ‘The Schooner Flight‘ expresses his rage against racism and rejection of colonial culture: “I’m just a red nigger who love the sea, / I had a sound colonial education, / I have Dutch, nigger and English in me, / and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation.”

From 1959 to 1971 Walcott was the founding director of the Little Carib Theatre (later the Trinidad Theatre Workshop). Heavily engaged in theatre, he wrote fewer new plays. Of these Dream of Monkey Mountain was commissioned originally by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 1960s but produced finally in the USA. The work, which follows Ti-Jean and His Brothers in exploring the nature of Caribbean cultural identity, is considered to be his most impressive play. Walcott also collaborated on several musicals with Galt McDermott, best-known from the hippie musical Hair. The Basement Theatre, directed by Walcott, participated in 1967 in Canada’s Centennial Celebrations. It was the first West Indian drama company to perform outside the region.

Walcott has written both in standard English and in West Indian dialect. His plays examining the postcolonial condition owe much to folk and Creole tradition and history. They combine story-telling, singing, dancing, and the rhythms of calypso with richly metaphorical speech which mingles verse and prose. His autobiographical works include the poem Another Life (1973), inspired James Joyce’s self-examination in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Tiepolo’s Hound (2000) was about the painter Camille Pissarro and the poet himself. The book was published with reproductions of Walcott’s paintings. Walcott’ success has inspired many aspiring Caribbean writers. His twin brother Roderick was a playwright. The death of Roderick was one of the subjects of The Prodigal (2004), which Walcott called his last book.


1969:   Cholmondeley Award

1971:   Obie Award for Best Foreign Play (for Dream on Monkey Mountain)

1972:   Officer of the Order of the British Empire[10]

1981:   MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“genius award”)

1988:   Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry

1990:   Arts Council of Wales International Writers Prize

1990:   W. H. Smith Literary Award (for poetry Omeros)

1992:   Nobel Prize in Literature

2008:   Honorary doctorate from the University of Essex

2011:   T. S. Eliot Prize (for poetry collection White Egrets)[4]

2011:   OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (for White Egrets)




1948:  25 Poems, Guardian Commercial Printery (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad)

1949:  Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos, Barbados Advocate (Bridgetown, Barbados)

1953:  Poems, Kingston City Printery (Kingston, Jamaica)

1962:  In a Green Night: Poems, J. Cape (London, England), published as In a Green Night: Poems, 1948-1960, J. Cape (London, England), 1969.

1964:  Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

Click here to see more of Walcott's works of poetry

1965:  The Castaway, J. Cape (London, England)

1969:  The Gulf and Other Poems, J. Cape (London, England), published with selections from The Castaway as The Gulf: Poems, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1970.

1973:  Another Life (long poem), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY),  2nd edition published with introduction, chronology and selected bibliography by Robert D. Hammer,

1982:  Three Continents Press (Washington, DC)

1976:  Sea Grapes, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1976:  Selected Verse, Heinemann (London, England)

1979:  The Star-Apple Kingdom, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1981:  The Fortunate Traveller, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1981:  Selected Poetry, selected, annotated, and introduced by Wayne Brown, Heinemann (London, England), revised edition, 1993.

1983:  The Caribbean Poetry of Derek Walcott and the Art of Romare Beardon, Limited Editions Club (New York, NY)

1984:  Midsummer, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1986:  Collected Poems, 1948-1984, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1987:  The Arkansas Testament, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1990:  Omeros, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1990:  Collected Poems, Faber (London, England)

1992:  Poems, 1965-1980, J. Cape (London, England)

1993:  Derek Walcott: Selected Poems, Longman (London, England)

1997:  The Bounty, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

2000:  Tiepolo’s Hound, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

2004:  The Prodigal (book-length poem), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

2007:  Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

2010:  White Egrets, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

Contributor of poems to numerous periodicals, including New Statesman, London Magazine, Encounter, Evergreen Review, Caribbean Quarterly, Tamarack Review, and Bim.



1978:  Baugh, Edward, Derek Walcott: Memory As Vision: Another Life, Longman (London, England)

1988:  Bloom, Harold, Derek Walcott, Chelsea House (New York, NY)

1991:  Brown, Stewart, editor, The Art of Derek Walcott, Dufour (Chester Springs, PA)

1974: Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2;  Volume 4, 1975; Volume 9, 1978; Volume 14, 1980; Volume 25, 1983; Volume 42, 1987; Volume 67, 1992; Volume 76, 1993.

1996:  Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI)

Click here to see more of Walcott's book publications

1992:  Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 117: Twentieth-Century Caribbean and Black African Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI)

1981, 1982,, and 1992, 1993:  Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, Gale (Detroit, MI)

1996:  Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Culture, Volume 5: African-American Culture, Gale (Detroit, MI)

1984:  Goldstraw, Irma, Derek Walcott: An Annotated Bibliography of His Works, Garland Publishing (New York, NY)

1993:  Hamner, Robert D., compiler and editor, Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott, Three Continents Press (Washington, DC)

1981:  Hamner, Robert D., Derek Walcott, Twayne (Boston, MA)

1997:  Hamner, Robert D., Epic of the Dispossessed: Derek Walcott’s “Omeros,” University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO)

1979:  Harper, Michael S., and Robert B. Stepto, editors, Chant of Saints, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL)

1995:  Herdeck, Donald E., editor, Three Dynamite Authors: Derek Walcott (Nobel 1992), Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel 1988), Wole Soyinka (Nobel 1986): Ten Bio-critical Essays from Their Works As Published by Three Continents Press, Three Continents Press (Colorado Springs, CO)

1959-1993:  King, Bruce Alvin, Derek Walcott and West Indian Drama: Not Only a Playwright but a Company, the Trinidad Theatre Workshop; Oxford University (New York, NY), 1995.

1995:  Olaniyan, Tejumola, Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African-American, and Caribbean Drama, Oxford University Press (New York, NY)

1995:  Parker, Michael, and Roger Starkey, editors, Postcolonial Literatures: Achebe, Ngugi, Desai, Walcott, St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY)

1974:  Rodman, Selden, Tongues of Fallen Angels, New Directions (New York, NY)

1996:  Schomburg Center Guide to Black Literature, Gale (Detroit, MI)

1992:  Terada, Rei, Derek Walcott’s Poetry: American Mimicry, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA)

1980:  Thomas, Ned, Derek Walcott, Poet of the Islands, Welsh Arts Council (Cardiff, Wales)

1962:  Walcott, Derek, In a Green Night: Poems, 1948-1960, J. Cape (London, England)

1970:  Walcott, Derek, Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1979:  Walcott, Derek, The Star-Apple Kingdom, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1986:  Walcott, Derek, Collected Poems, 1948-1984, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY)

1991:  Wheatcroft, John, editor, Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking, Bucknell University Press (Lewisberg, VA) 

1988:  Wieland, James, The Ensphering Mind: History, Myth, and Fictions in the Poetry of Allen Curnow, Nissim Ezekiel, A. D. Hope, A. M. Klein, Christopher Okigbo, and Derek Walcott, Three Continents Press (Washington, DC)


  • Cry for a Leader, produced in St. Lucia, 1950.
  • Senza Alcum Sospetto (radio play), broadcast 1950, produced as Paolo and Francesca, in St. Lucia, 1951.
  • (And director) Henri Christophe: A Chronicle in Seven Scenes (first produced in Castries, West Indies, 1950; produced in London, England, 1952), Barbados Advocate (Bridgetown, Barbados), 1950.
  • Robin and Andrea, published in Bim (Christ Church, Barados), 1950.

Click here to see more of Walcott's plays

  • Three Assassins, produced in St. Lucia, West Indies, 1951.
  • The Price of Mercy, produced in St. Lucia, West Indies, 1951.
  • (And director) Harry Dernier: A Play for Radio Production (produced in Mona, Jamaica, 1952; radio play broadcast as Dernier, 1952), Barbados Advocate (Bridgetown, Barbados), 1952.
  • (And director) The Wine of the Country (produced in Mona, Jamaica, 1956), University College of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica), 1953.
  • The Sea at Dauphin: A Play in One Act (first produced in Mona, Jamaica, 1953; produced in Trinidad, 1954, London, England, 1960, New York, NY, 1978), Extra-Mural Department, University College of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica), 1954, also included in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (also see below).
  • Crossroads, produced in Jamaica, 1954.
  • (And director) The Charlatan, Walcott directed first production in Mona, Jamaica, 1954; revised version with music by Fred Hope and Rupert Dennison produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1973; revised version with music by Galt MacDermot produced in Los Angeles, 1974; revised version produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1977.
  • Ione: A Play with Music (first produced in Kingston, 1957), Extra-Mural Department, University College of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica), 1957.
  • Drums and Colours: An Epic Drama (first produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1958), published in Caribbean Quarterly, March-June, 1961.
  • (And director) Ti-Jean and His Brothers (first produced in Castries, St. Lucia, 1957; Walcott directed a revised version produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1958; produced in Hanover, NH, 1971; Walcott directed a production Off-Broadway at Delacorte Theatre, 1972; produced in London, 1986), included in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays(also see below).
  • Malcauchon; or, The Six in the Rain (sometimes “Malcauchon” transliterated as “Malcochon”; one-act; first produced as Malcauchon in Castries, St. Lucia, 1959; produced as Six in the Rain, in London, England, 1960; produced Off-Broadway at St. Mark’s Playhouse, 1969), Extra-Mural Department, University of West Indies (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad), 1966, also included in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (also see below).
  • Jourmard; or, A Comedy till the Last Minute, first produced in St. Lucia, 1959; produced in New York, NY, 1962.
  • (And director) Batai (carnival show), produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1965.
  • (And director) Dream on Monkey Mountain (first produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1967; produced in Waterford, CT, 1969; and Off-Broadway at St. Mark’s Playhouse, 1970), included in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (also see below).
  • (And director) Franklin: A Tale of the Islands, first produced in Georgetown, Guyana, 1969; Walcott directed a revised version produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1973.
  • Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (contains Dream on Monkey Mountain, The Sea at Dauphin, Malcauchon; or, The Six in the Rain, Ti-Jean and His Brothers, and the essay “What the Twilight Says: An Overture”), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1970.
  • (And director) In a Fine Castle, (Walcott directed first production in Mona, Jamaica, 1970; produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1972), excerpt as Conscience of a Revolution published in Express (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad), October 24, 1971.
  • The Joker of Seville (musical; music by Galt MacDermot; adaptation of the play by Tirso de Molina; first produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1974), included in The Joker of Seville and O Babylon!: Two Plays (also see below).
  • (And director) O Babylon! (music by Galt MacDermot; Walcott directed first production in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1976; produced in London, England, 1988), included in The Joker of Seville and O Babylon!: Two Plays (also see below).
  • (And director) Remembrance (three-act; Walcott directed first production in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, December, 1977; produced Off-Broadway at The Other Stage, 1979 ; and London, England, 1980), included in Remembrance & Pantomime: Two Plays (also see below).
  • The Snow Queen (television play), excerpt published in People(Port-of-Spain, Trinidad), April, 1977.
  • Pantomime (first produced in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1978; produced London, England, 1979, Washington, DC, 1981, and Off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild Theater, 1986), included in Remembrance & Pantomime: Two Plays (also see below).
  • The Joker of Seville and O Babylon!: Two Plays, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1978.
  • (And director) Marie Laveau (music by Galt MacDermot; first produced in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1979), excerpts published in Trinidad and Tobago Review (Tunapuna), 1979.
  • Remembrance & Pantomime: Two Plays, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1980.
  • Beef, No Chicken (Walcott directed first production in New Haven, CT, 1982; produced in London, England, 1989), included in Three Plays (also see below).
  • The Isle Is Full of Noises, first produced at the John W. Huntington Theater, Hartford, CT, 1982.
  • Three Plays (contains The Last Carnival, Beef, No Chicken, and A Branch of the Blue Nile), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1986.
  • Steel, first produced at the American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA, 1991.
  • The Odyssey: A Stage Version, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1993.
  • (With Paul Simon) The Capeman: A Musical (produced on Broadway at the Marquis Theater, December, 1997), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
  • The Haitian Trilogy, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.
  • Also author of the play To Die for Grenada.


Other Works

  • Henri Christophe: A Chronicle in Seven Scenes, Barbados Advocate (Bridgetown, Barbados), 1950.
  • Another Life: Fully Annotated, Lynne Rienner Publishers (Boulder, CO), reprinted with a critical essay and comprehensive notes by Edward Baugh and Colbert Nepaulsingh, 2004.
  • The Poet in the Theatre, Poetry Book Society (London, England), 1990.
  • The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory: The Nobel Lecture, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1993.
  • Conversations with Derek Walcott, edited by William Baer, University of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1996.
  • (With Joseph Brodsky and Seamus Heaney) Homage to Robert Frost, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
  • What the Twilight Says (essays), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
  • Walker and Ghost Dance, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.



  • John Figueroa, editor, Caribbean Voices, Evans (London, England), 1966.
  • Barbara Howes, editor, From the Green Antilles, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1966.
  • Howard Sergeant, editor, Commonwealth Poems of Today, Murray (London, England), 1967.
  • O. R. Dathorne, editor, Caribbean Verse, Heinemann (London, England), 1968.
  • Anne Walmsley, compiler, The Sun’s Eye: West Indian Writing for Young Readers, Longmans, Green (London, England) 1968.
  • Orde Coombs, editor, Is Massa Day Dead?, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1974.
  • D. J. Enright, editor, Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse, 1945-1980, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1980.
  • Errol Hill, editor, Plays for Today, Longman (London, England), 1985.
  • (Author of introduction) George Plimpton, editor, Latin American Writers at Work, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2003.
  • Also contributor to Caribbean Literature, edited by George Robert Coulthard; New Voices of the Commonwealth, edited by Howard Sergeant; and Young Commonwealth Poetry, edited by Peter Ludwig Brent. Some of Walcott’s personal papers are housed at the University of the West Indies in Saint Augustine, Trinidad.

Source:  Poetry Foundation

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