Sir Derek Walcott's Nobel Prize
Why Saint Lucia’s Literary Laureate Won The Nobel Prize
Sir Derek Walcott passed away two years ago, leaving behind a literary legacy second to none in the Caribbean.
The son of a beloved Castries schoolteacher and one half of a pair of twins, Walcott was trained as a painter but turned to writing as a youth, publishing his first poem in the local newspaper at the age of fourteen.
Five years later, borrowing money from his mother, he printed his first collection called 25 Poems, distributed it himself on the streets of the capital and the rest is literary history.
By the time he became the second Saint Lucian to win a Nobel Prize, Walcott had published two dozen poetry anthologies and a similar number of plays, including Omeros in 1990, which was finally performed in his presence on a Saint Lucian stage in 2016, less than a year before he died.
According to the Swedish Academy, Derek Walcott was chosen as Nobel Laureate in Literature because his work had "a strong regional voice that transcend[ed] its topical locality, through the depth and breadth of its poetic resonance and through its global human implication."
His great passion for the Caribbean and Saint Lucia were undeniable, but Sir Derek never pulled any punches where difficult subjects came into play, like the after effects of colonialism, the fragmentation of Caribbean identity, and the role of the poet in a post-colonial world.
He lectured at Boston University for twenty-five years before ‘retiring’ in 2007 to return to his native island, although he continued for the next decade to educate as Scholar-in-Residence at Canada’s University of Alberta, and as Professor of Poetry at University of Essex.
In 2013 Dutch filmmaker Ida Does released "Poetry is an Island", a feature documentary film about Sir Derek Walcott's life and his deeply complex relationship of his birthplace, Saint Lucia. At an emotional local premiere, he bard himself was joined by legions of literary fans whose lives and careers have been inspired by our unofficial poet laureate.
Sir Derek had a lot to say through his works about life in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean. Everybody has a favourite Walcott poem or quote, so here’s one beloved piece to honour this gifted son of the soil.
We invite you to celebrate Saint Lucia’s 40th Independence on February 22, 2019 - wherever you are!
Walcott’s Word: 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.”
- Collection Poems, 1948 - 1984