CASTRIES, St. Lucia, (Reuters) – Poet Derek Walcott, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992 and helped thrust Caribbean writing into the global spotlight, died peacefully at his home in St. Lucia today. He was 87.
Jeff Seroy, a spokesman for publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, said Walcott died shortly after 5 a.m. today. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Seroy said Walcott had been ill for some time and had recently returned home from a hospital stay.
His longtime companion, Sigrid Nama, was with him at the time of his death, Seroy said.
“My deepest sympathies go out to Derek’s family (and) his children,” St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said, calling the poet, painter and playwright “a Caribbean patriot.” He said the country’s flag would be flown at half mast in Walcott’s honour until Tuesday.
Walcott, who was born on the volcanic island in 1930, came to the attention of the public in 1962 with a collection of poems called, “In a Green Night,” which celebrated the Caribbean.
In “Omeros” (1990), an epic poem considered his most ambitious and accomplished work, he invoked Caribbean voices through Greek myth, drawing on Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey”.
Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize, and in its citation, the Swedish Academy said: “He has both African and European blood in his veins. In him, West Indian culture has found its great poet.”
Britain’s former poet laureate Andrew Motion described Walcott as a member of the great Nobel-winning poetic generation.
“He did as much or more than anyone to win the global respect for Caribbean writing that it deserves and now enjoys,” Motion said in an emailed statement.
Walcott’s children, Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Anna Walcott-Hardy, said his funeral would be held on the island.
Below, we reprint a September 18, 2016 Arts on Sunday column by Al Creighton on aspects of Walcott’s oeuvre.
The play Ti Jean and His Brothers is one of the new texts prescribed on the CXC syllabus in its new cycle. This continues the importance of drama in the study of literature and English Language in the secondary schools around the Caribbean, and the concept long held by CXC that language and literature are integrated studies, subjects and experiences.
The National School of Theatre Arts and Drama will be attempting to contribute to this learning experience by offering a live presentation of the play which will be produced and performed by the National Drama Company this week September 20-22, in three matinee shows at 1pm each day. It will be directed by Subraj Singh and Al Creighton, with choreography and design by Esther Hamer.