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Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott was born in Castries, Saint Lucia, the West Indies, on January 23, 1930. His first published poem, “1944” appeared in The Voice of St. Lucia when he was fourteen years old, and consisted of 44 lines of blank verse. By the age of nineteen, Walcott had self-published two volumes, 25 Poems (1948) and Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949), exhibiting a wide range of influences, including William Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound.

He later attended the University of the West Indies, having received a Colonial Development and Welfare scholarship, and in 1951 published the volume Poems.

In 1957, he was awarded a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation to study the American theater. He published numerous collections of poetry in his lifetime, most recently The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), White Egrets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), Selected Poems (2007), The Prodigal: A Poem (2004), and Tiepolo’s Hound (2000).

The founder of the Trinidad Theater Workshop, Walcott also wrote several plays produced throughout the United States: The Odyssey: A Stage Version (1992); The Isle is Full of Noises (1982); Remembrance and Pantomime (1980); The Joker of Seville and O Babylon! (1978); Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays (1970); Three Plays: The Last Carnival; Beef, No Chicken; and A Branch of the Blue Nile (1969). His play Dream on Monkey Mountain won the Obie Award for distinguished foreign play of 1971. He founded Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at Boston University in 1981.

His first collection of essays, What the Twilight Says (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), was published in 1998.

About his work, the poet Joseph Brodsky said, “For almost forty years his throbbing and relentless lines kept arriving in the English language like tidal waves, coagulating into an archipelago of poems without which the map of modern literature would effectively match wallpaper. He gives us more than himself or ‘a world’; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language.”

Walcott’s honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Montale Prize, a Royal Society of Literature Award, and, in 1988, the Queen’s Medal for Poetry. In 1992, Walcott became the first Caribbean writer to receive the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature, and in 2015, he received the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Derek Walcott died on March 17, 2017, in Saint Lucia. (poets.org)

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Of Love after Love by Derek Walcott, Judith Segura, 52, from Dallas, Texas says in her submission of the poem to Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology,

This poem is a joyful, and for me both comforting and inspiring, expression of accepting life’s ultimate loneliness.

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That may be one way of looking at it, but for me, after spending the last two plus years exploring my “inner cave” and getting to know myself, THIS seems to be the coveted place at which I have arrived. A place where for the first time I’m not only accepting of myself to a greater degree, but also at peace with who I am. And I’ve found for me the truth is, others may come and go from my life, but I am the one person who won’t leave me. It is good, therefore, that I have done the work I needed to to make friends with myself and come to an appreciation of me. I don’t see that as a lonely place, I see that as coming home…

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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.

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Picture Source: Knopf Doubleday

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