Derek Walcott – The Passing of a Literary Legend

Iconic Caribbean playwright, poet and Nobel Laureate, Sir Derek Walcott, is dead.

His daughters Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Anna Walcott-Hardy confirmed his passing this morning.

Sir Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and a string of other prizes for his works.

He’s among the foremost of West Indian writers and thinkers.

Derek Walcott was born January 23, 1930 in Castries, St. Lucia. He published his first collection — 25 Poems– at the age of 18.

In an interview with BBC’s Christie Young back in the 1950s, Sir Derek said he was writing from as far back as he could remember.

Sir Derek studied at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, before moving to Trinidad in 1953, where he worked as a theatre and art critic.

He won a number of literary awards including an Obie Award in 1971 for his play ‘Dream on Monkey Mountain’.

He also won the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, and the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry Lifetime Recognition Award in 2015.

He was also an accomplished painter and playwright.

Derek Walcott is founder of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, which produced many of his early plays.

In reacting to the news Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet, says today is a very historical day with the passing of a household name in Saint Lucia.

Prime Minister Chastanet says when everyone describes Saint Lucia with any form of superlative, Derek Walcott’s name was among the two that stood tall.

He’s ordered that all flags in Saint Lucia be flown at half mast until Tuesday.

BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz describes Derek Walcott as a unique poetic voice.

He says Walcott had taken issue with being defined as a black writer–he wanted to be referred to first and foremost as a Caribbean writer.

And Head of the Literatures in English Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr. Michael Bucknor says Walcott’s passing is a colossal loss.

Derek Walcott passed away at his home in St Lucia this morning, after ailing for some time. He was 87-years-old.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hillary Beckles, is saluting Sir Derek as one of the finest intellects of the 20th century.

Sir Hillary says Walcott’s scholarly genius was first recognized while he was a student in the Faculty of Arts at the UWI’s Mona campus.

He describes Sir Derek as a literary phenomenon from the Lesser Antilles and intellectual without conceptual borders.

The UWI Vice Chancellor says Walcott’s literary enterprise reflected an extraordinary grasp of world history, Western capitalism and African enslavement, native genocide, the colonization of Asia and how these historical forces led to the creation of a unique Caribbean culture.

He’s extending condolences, on behalf of the UWI community, to the family and loved ones of Sir Derek Walcott.

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