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About this poet

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.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Poetry of Derek Walcott: 1948–2013 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)
White Egrets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)
The Prodigal: A Poem (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006)
Tiepolo’s Hound (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001)
The Bounty (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997)
Omeros (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990)
The Arkansas Testament (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987)
Collected Poems, 1948­–1984 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986)
Midsummer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984)
The Fortunate Traveller (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982)
The Star-Apple Kingdom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979)
Sea Grapes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976)
Another Life (Jonathan Cape, 1973)
The Gulf and Other Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1969)
The Castaway and Other Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1965)
In a Green Night: Poems 1948–1960 (Jonathan Cape, 1962)

A Far Cry from Africa

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
"Waste no compassion on these separate dead!"
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?

Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilization's dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.

Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.
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?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?

"A Far Cry from Africa" from Selected Poems by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 2007 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

"A Far Cry from Africa" from Selected Poems by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 2007 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott

Born in 1930, in the West Indies, Derek Walcott received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.

by this poet

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2
poem
The growing idleness of summer grass
With its frail kites of furious butterflies
Requests the lemonade of simple praise
In scansion gentler than my hammock swings
And rituals no more upsetting than a
Black maid shaking linen as she sings
The plain notes of some Protestant hosanna—
Since I lie idling from the
2
poem
The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

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