Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott Poems

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror

Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.
A green river.

After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire;
Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.

There are so many islands!
As many islands as the stars at night
on that branched tree from which meteors are shaken
like falling fruit around the schooner Flight.

The last leaves fell like notes from a piano
and left their ovals echoing in the ear;
with gawky music stands, the winter forest
looks like an empty orchestra, its lines

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.

There is a shattered palm
on this fierce shore,
its plumes the rusting helm-
et of a dead warrior.

Night, the black summer, simplifies her smells
into a village; she assumes the impenetrable

musk of the negro, grows secret as sweat,

Old Eddie's face, wrinkled with river lights,
Looked like a Mississippi man's. The eyes,
Derisive and avuncular at once,
Swivelling, fixed me. They'd seen

So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky
of this black August. My sister, the sun,
broods in her yellow room and won't come out.

Schizophrenic, wrenched by two styles,
one a hack's hired prose, I earn
me exile. I trudge this sickle, moonlit beach for miles,

You can't put in the ground swell of the organ
from the Christiansted, St.Croix, Anglican Church
behind the paratrooper's voice: 'Turned cop
after Vietnam. I made thirty jumps.'

Those villages stricken with the melancholia of Sunday,
in all of whose ocher streets one dog is sleeping

those volcanoes like ashen roses, or the incurable sore

When sunset, a brass gong,
vibrate through Couva,
is then I see my soul, swiftly unsheathed,
like a white cattle bird growing more small

Koening knew now there was no one on the river.
Entering its brown mouth choking with lilies
and curtained with midges, Koenig poled the shallop
past the abandoned ferry and the ferry piles


Man, I suck me tooth when I hear
How dem croptime fiddlers lie,
And de wailing, kiss-me-arse flutes
That bring water to me eye!

As for that other thing
which comes when the eyelid is glazed
and the wax gleam
from the unwrinkled forehead


This coral's hape ecohes the hand
It hollowed. Its

Immediate absence is heavy. As pumice,

Better a jungle in the head
than rootless concrete.
Better to stand bewildered
by the fireflies' crooked street;

Derek Walcott Biography

Derek Walcott (1930-2017) was a Caribbean poet and playwright who was born on the island of Saint Lucia. He is widely regarded as one of the most important literary figures of the 20th century. Walcott's work often explored themes of colonialism, race, and identity, and he drew heavily on the history and culture of the Caribbean in his writing. He first gained international recognition with his poetry collection, "In a Green Night," which was published in 1962. In addition to his work as a poet, Walcott was also a successful playwright, and his plays were produced in theaters around the world. He was known for his powerful and lyrical language, his exploration of complex and challenging themes, and his commitment to the cultural and political liberation of the Caribbean. Throughout his life, Walcott received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. He remained active as a writer and educator until his death in 2017. Today, Walcott's legacy as a poet and playwright continues to inspire and challenge readers and artists around the world. His work has had a profound impact on Caribbean literature and culture, and he is remembered as a visionary who helped to shape the literary and cultural identity of the Caribbean and beyond.

Early Life

He is an ex-British colony member who was growing up on the isolated volcanic island. These issues have had a strong impact on Walcott’s life and work. Both his grandmothers were said to have been the descendants of slaves. His mother ran the town’s Methodist school. And his father, a Bohemian watercolourist died when Derek and his twin brother, Roderick, were only a few years old. Walcott arrived to Trinidad in 1953 after studying at St. Mary's College on his native island and the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He has worked as a theatrical and art critic. With 25 Poetry, he made his debut at the age of 18, but In a Green Night, a book of poems, was his breakthrough (1962). He formed the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959, which staged several of his early works. He has traveled extensively over the world, yet he has always felt profoundly anchored in Caribbean civilization, with its cultural blend of African, Asian, and European aspects, not least in his efforts to establish an indigenous play. He has split his time for many years between Trinidad, where he works as a writer, and Boston University, where he teaches literature and creative writing.

What is Derek Walcott most famous poem?

Many readers and critics point to Omeros (1990), an epic poem reimagining the Trojan War as a Caribbean fishermen's fight, as Walcott's major achievement.

What did Derek Walcott win the Nobel Prize for?

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1992 was awarded to Derek Walcott "for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment."

Which poem is written by Derek Walcott?

Walcott's epic poem Omeros (1990), which loosely echoes and refers to characters from the Iliad, has been critically praised as his "major achievement." The book received praise from publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times Book Review, which chose Omeros as one of its "Best Books of 1990". If you see the other poems, please click here.

What was Derek Walcott's quote?

“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.” See the full quotes from here.
Walcott then studied as a writer, becoming “an elated, exuberant poet madly in love with English” and strongly influenced by modernist poets such as T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Walcott had an early sense of a vocation as a writer. In the Poem "Midsummer" (1984), he wrote Forty years gone, in my island childhood, I felt that the gift of poetry had made me one of the chosen, that all experience was kindling to the fire of the Muse. At 14, Walcott published his first poem in The Voice of St Lucia, a Miltonic, religious poem. In the newspaper, an English Catholic priest condemned the Methodist-inspired poem as blasphemous. By 19, Walcott had self-published his two first collections, 25 Poems (1948) and Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949), which he distributed himself. He commented "I went to my mother and said, 'I’d like to publish a book of poems, and I think it’s going to cost me two hundred dollars.' She was just a seamstress and a schoolteacher, and I remember her being very upset because she wanted to do it. Somehow she got it—a lot of money for a woman to have found on her salary. She gave it to me, and I sent off to Trinidad and had the book printed. When the books came back I would sell them to friends. I made the money back." Influential Barbadian poet Frank Collymore critically supported Walcott's early work. Career With a scholarship he studied at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica then moved to Trinidad in 1953, becoming a critic, teacher and journalist. Walcott founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959 and remains active with its Board of Directors. Exploring the Caribbean and its history in a colonialist and post-colonialist context, his collection In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962) saw him gain an international public profile. He founded the Boston Playwrights' Theatre at Boston University in 1981. Walcott taught literature and writing at Boston University, retiring in 2007. His later collections include Tiepolo’s Hound (2000),The Prodigal (2004) and White Egrets (2010), which was the recipient of the T.S. Eliot Prize. Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992, the first Caribbean writer to receive the honor. The Nobel committee described his work as “a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.” In 2009, he began a three-year distinguished scholar-in-residence position at the University of Alberta. In 2010, he became Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex. Themes Methodism and spirituality have played a significant role from the beginning, in Walcott's work. He commented "I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer. I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation". He describes the experience of the poet: "the body feels it is melting into what it has seen… the “I” not being important. That is the ecstasy...Ultimately, it’s what Yeats says: 'Such a sweetness flows into the breast that we laugh at everything and everything we look upon is blessed.' That’s always there. It’s a benediction, a transference. It’s gratitude, really. The more of that a poet keeps, the more genuine his nature". He notes that "if one thinks a poem is coming do make a retreat, a withdrawal into some kind of silence that cuts out everything around you. What you’re taking on is really not a renewal of your identity but actually a renewal of your anonymity". Walcott has published more than twenty plays, the majority of which have been produced by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, and have also been widely staged elsewhere. Many of them deal, either directly or indirectly, with the liminal status of the West Indies in the postcolonial period. Much of his poetry also seeks to explore the paradoxes and complexities of this legacy. In his 1970 essay "What the Twilight Says: An Overture" discussing art and theatre in his native region (from Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays) Walcott reflects on the West Indies as colonized space, and the problems presented by a region with little in the way of truly indigenous forms, and with little national or nationalist identity. He states: “We are all strangers here... Our bodies think in one language and move in another". Discussions of epistemological effects of colonization inform plays such as Ti-Jean and his Brothers. In the play, Mi-Jean, one of the eponymous brothers is shown to have much information, but to truly know nothing. Every line Mi-Jean recites is rote knowledge gained from the coloniser, and as such is unable to be synthesized and thus is inapplicable to his existence as colonised person. Yet Walcott notes of the Caribbean "what we were deprived of was also our privilege. There was a great joy in making a world that so far, up to then, had been undefined... My generation of West Indian writers has felt such a powerful elation at having the privilege of writing about places and people for the first time and, simultaneously, having behind them the tradition of knowing how well it can be done—by a Defoe, a Dickens, a Richardson." Walcott identifies as "absolutely a Carbibbean writer", a pioneer, helping to make sense of the legacy of deep colonial damage. In such poems as "The Castaway" (1965) and in the play Pantomime (1978), he works with the metaphors of shipwreck and Crusoe to describe the position of rebuilding after colonialism and slavery: the freedom to re-begin and the challenge of it. He writes "If we continue to sulk and say, Look at what the slave-owner did, and so forth, we will never mature. While we sit moping or writing morose poems and novels that glorify a non-existent past, then time passes us by." Walcott's work weaves together a variety of forms including the folktale, morality play, allegory, fable and ritual featuring emblematic and mythological characters. His epic book length poem Omeros, is an allusive, loose reworking of Homeric story and tradition into a journey within the Caribbean and beyond to Africa, New England, the American West, Canada, and London, with frequent reference to the Greek Islands. His odysseys are not the realm of gods or warriors, but are peopled by everyday folk. Composed in terza rima and organized by rhyme and meter, the work echos the themes that run through Walcott's oeuvre, the beauty of the islands, the colonial burden, fragmentation of Caribbean identity, and the role of the poet in salving the rents. Walcott's friend Joseph Brodsky commented: "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." A close friend of the Russian Brodsky and the Irish Heaney, Walcott noted that the three of them were a band of poets "outside the American experience". Walcott's writing was also influenced by the work of friends Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.

Awards and Honours of Derek Walcott

1969 Cholmondeley Award 1971 Obie Award for Dream on Monkey Mountain 1972 OBE 1981 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship OBIE ("genius award") 1988 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 1990 Arts Council of Wales International Writers Prize 1990 WH Smith Literary Award for Omeros 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature 2008 Honorary doctorate from the University of Essex 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize for White Egrets 2011 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for White Egrets)

The Best Poem Of Derek Walcott

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.

Derek Walcott Comments

Jill Paterson 16 January 2007

I must say that Derek Walcott unlocks a different door in Caribbean poetry. Not only does he expose our history and heritage but he does so with an ornate yet down-to-earth artisitc style. I have studied Olive Senior and Martin Carter not to mention his greatest 'oponent' Edward Brathwaite and somehow Walcott's poems tend to offer a more captivating appeal.

44 24 Reply
Simone Solon 16 March 2005

I've only just discovered Derek Walcott and it is such a pleasure to come across a poet of this calibre that I haven't read before. I don't understand half of it - but that's half the wonder of it!

49 17 Reply
Tatianna Kringle 12 January 2005

i think its great that you guys have all of these poets on here because i had an english clkass project on poets and i wanted to do a west indian poet because i am from the west indies..

40 21 Reply
Trisha Gustave 19 December 2012

A Far Cry From Africa is one of the best Caribbean poems I have ever read. It expresses in words, my thoughts about our Caribbean ancestral background. Dereck Walcott inspires me with his amazing writing style and I believe that his work is a marvelous accomplishment.

34 19 Reply
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Derek Walcott Quotes

Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.

The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.

I come from a place that likes grandeur; it likes large gestures; it is not inhibited by flourish; it is a rhetorical society; it is a society of physical performance; it is a society of style.

Any serious attempt to try to do something worthwhile is ritualistic.

Derek Walcott Popularity

Derek Walcott Popularity

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