Derek Walcott Additional Biography

Biography

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Derek Walcott and twin brother Roderick were one year old when their father died at age thirty-five after an operation. The boys’ mother, headmistress of a Methodist infant school, worked hard to keep them and their older sister Pamela at college.

Walcott completed his B.A. at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, in 1953, with three years in English, French, and Latin, and stayed on for another year as a graduate student in education. He taught in St. Lucia, Grenada, and Jamaica, married three times, and has three children.

Through a grant, Walcott studied theater in New York from 1957 to 1958. He then settled in Trinidad in 1959, wrote, and founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. With Roderick, he founded the St. Lucia Arts Guild in 1950. His publications include fourteen books of poetry and four volumes of plays.

Walcott has characterized his childhood as schizophrenic. Of African and English ancestry, he grew up in a middle-class, Protestant family in a society that was predominantly Roman Catholic and poor. Educated in European history, art, and literature, he is also in contact with the black, African-based culture of the St. Lucian majority. All that is “illegitimate, rootless, mongrelized” became the metaphor for his artistic and dramatic approach. Responding to fellow Caribbean writer V. S. Naipaul’s argument in The Middle Passage (1962), “Nothing was created in the West Indies,” Walcott writes that “if there was nothing, there was everything to be made. With this prodigious ambition one began.” One begins the act of creativity, in naming and redefining, with “Adam’s task of giving things their names.” Further, the 1992 Nobel laureate for literature uses the Caribbean, which he describes as a vase made of pieces broken off from several cultures, as the brazen serpent of healing and restoration for a world plagued by racial and cultural lacerations. The Caribbean, therefore, becomes a bridge over troubled waters because “the glue . . . is a love that reassembles our African and Asiatic fragments.” Walcott’s works and his Nobel speech have urged the world to look on the Caribbean as “a house on the side of a country road . . . whose smell is the smell of refreshing possibility as well as survival.”

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

On January 23, 1930, Derek Alton Walcott and his twin brother, Roderick Alton Walcott, were born to Warwick and Alix Walcott on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, in the West Indies. In addition to his twin brother, he had an older sister, Pamela. Walcott was born into a Methodist family while most of his neighbors were Catholic, the legacy of long French colonial rule. In April, 1931, Walcott’s father, clerk of the First District Court, died, leaving Alix Walcott, the headmistress of the Methodist Infant Day School, to rear the children. With two white grandfathers and his family’s economic and religious status, Walcott was caught between races and classes.

Four influences shaped his aesthetic growth: his formal English education, his talent as a painter, the life of the island itself, and his religious background. His colonial education was thorough, including Greek and Latin and the essential European masterpieces. Following his father’s talents, Walcott was as interested in painting as in literature. His mentor, the local painter Harry Simmons, recognized that Walcott’s talents as a writer surpassed his talents as a painter and guided him through the transition from painting to poetry. His poems are replete with the language and actions of fishers and peasants, as well as the acute observations of the natural world. His religious background also served to train him for the craft of poetry, and, as he asserts in an interview in Paris Review, “I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer. I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation.”

When Walcott was fourteen, his first poem was published in a newspaper. Four years later, in 1948, he sold his privately printed Twenty-five Poems(1948) on the streets to repay his mother, who had provided for printing costs. In 1950, his first significant play, Henri Christophe: A Chronicle (pr., pb. 1950), was produced by the St. Lucia Arts Guild. The play’s subject was Henri Christophe, who, with Toussaint-Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, led the only successful slave revolt in the Caribbean, resulting in the creation of the nation of Haiti. Also in 1950, Walcott, on a British Colonial Development Scholarship, left for the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. In 1951, his collection Poems was published. After receiving his B.A. in 1953, he moved to Trinidad, where he worked as a book reviewer, journalist, and art critic while continuing his work as a playwright and poet. In 1954, Walcott’s play The Sea at Dauphin (pr., pb. 1954) was produced. Also that year, he married Faye Althea Moston; the couple divorced in 1959. In 1957, he received a Rockefeller Fellowship, which took him in 1958 to New York City, where Drums and Colours (pr. 1958, pb. 1961) was...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Who inherits language and what powers come from that language and the circumstances of its inheritance? Derek Walcott’s poetry and drama consistently address and explore this question. His use of image, metaphor, persona, rhyme, and meter are all marked by technical distinction. While the effects may falter in individual poems—metaphors that finally overreach, for example—the demands made upon language to sing are fully present. His themes of exile, language, art, memory, and love necessitate his rigorous brilliance. Finally, his sense of landscape, particularly of the Caribbean and the sea, informs his language.

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Derek Alton Walcott is one of the most highly regarded poets writing in English, let alone from the English-speaking Caribbean. His prodigious talent and energy were recognized early in Castries, St. Lucia, and his mother, Alix Walcott, encouraged him, his older sister, and his twin brother, Roderick Walcott (also an accomplished playwright), in their art. Their father, Warwick Walcott, wrote and painted watercolors as an avocation; he died at age thirty-five when the twin brothers were one year old. Derek Walcott has won numerous awards and fellowships for his writing, among them the Welsh Arts Council International Writers Prize (1980), the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation Prize (1981), the Los Angeles Times...

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Biography

(Epics for Students)

From his earliest verse written at the age of eighteen, Walcott has drawn material from his own experience. The autobiographical aspect of...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

Biography

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Derek Walcott was born January 23, 1930, in the capital city of Castries on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia, a territory at that...

(The entire section is 404 words.)

Biography

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Derek Walcott Published by Gale Cengage

Derek Walcott was born on January 23, 1930, in Castries, St. Lucia, the West Indies. He and his twin brother, Roderick, were the sons of...

(The entire section is 468 words.)