The Caribbean lost Derek Walcott, the man; but not the poet
English-speaking Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize winner in literature 1992, died at his home in Saint Lucia, announced his family on Friday, March 17, 2017. He was 87 years old. Raised in the Protestant minority of an island with a Catholic majority and Francophone culture, his poetic work is at the heart of these confluences and contradictions.
Derek Walcott was born in the capital of Saint Lucia, Castries, on January 23, 1930, of a professor mother. His father, a civil servant, died while Derek Walcott and his twin brother, Roderick, were only babies. Their mother, Alix, passed on the love of language to her children, to whom she was reading classics of English literature, such as Shakespeare.
It was at the age of 14 that Derek Walcott shared his first work, a poem of 44 lines that appeared in a local newspaper. Four years later he published a collection of 25 poems. Then at only 20 years, his play Henri Christophe was presented in an artistic circle that Derek Walcott had founded himself.
With his African, Dutch and English origins, Derek Walcott said his writings reflected his "rich and complicated experience" in the Caribbean.
For many years, Derek Walcott found himself on the list of the "nobelists". In his Nobel Prize speech, Walcott celebrated the multiple culture of the West Indies with a marvelous metaphor: "Break a vase: the love that assembled the pieces again is stronger than the love which, when it was a whole, regarded its symmetrical perfection as self-evident. The glue that joins the pieces seals the original shape. It is this love that brings together our African and Asian fragments, these legs all cracked whose restoration reveals the bleached scars." "The poetic work the Anglophone “Métis” writer, “was at the heart of these confluences and contradictions," Le Monde newspaper wrote in 2012.
The Poetry Society described his death as "terrible news" and encouraged others to read his poetry in memoriam. Writer Adriana E. Ramírez paid a vibrant tribute to Derek Walcott. “The more I worked on listening and looking at Walcott’s poetry, the more love I found for a poet I once resented. His lack of humility, something I’d originally misinterpreted as arrogance, became a form of resistance.”
Derek Walcott is honored in the schools of St. Lucia each January 23, the date of his birthday and that of the other Nobel (economics) native of the island, Sir Arthur Lewis (1915-1991).
Derek Walcott had been ill for some time and his death was confirmed by his son, Peter. A statement published by his family relates that he "peacefully died at his house in Cap Estate". The funeral will be held on the island and details will be announced later.
In “The Prodigal,” a book-length poem, Walcott writes:
I carry a small white city in my head,
one with its avenues of withered flowers,
with no sound of traffic but the surf,
no lights at dusk on the short street
where my brother and our mother live now
at the one address, so many are their neighbors!
Make room for the accommodation of the dead,
their mounds that multiply by the furrowing sea,
not in the torch-lit catacombs of your head
but by the almond-bright, spume-blown cemetery.