The Poetry of Walcott A Divided, Postcolonial Consciousness

Derek Walcott

A Divided, Postcolonial Consciousness

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature, Derek Walcott is a major figure of contemporary literature. Scion of both the Anglo-European and the Afro-Caribbean heritage, he has conducted a lifelong struggle to integrate the divided self engendered by the duality of his legacy. Dedicated to art as a means of coming to terms with the colonial and postcolonial conditions of the Caribbean, Walcott has braved controversies and labored furiously to define himself as a citizen of the New World while maintaining vital links with the Old. Writing as both a West Indian and an American, he also offers imaginative insights into racial matters in the United States and the relationship between the United States and the developing world.

Derek Walcott’s career can be understood in the context of the colonial condition and marginalized predicament that he epitomizes but endeavors to redress. Descended from mulatto parents with a Methodist background, he was born in 1930 in St. Lucia, a small Caribbean island (under British rule until 1979) with a largely poor, black, and Catholic patois community. His situation as a “divided child” was complicated by the loss, at the age of one, of his father, a civil servant (also an amateur painter and poet). Thanks to his mother (a schoolteacher active in the local theater) and to the books and paintings that his father left behind, Walcott had an excellent education, and he began to write at a young age. He also learned to...

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