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Reliving The Poetry Of Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott at the Festival Internacional de Poesía en Granada. (Jorge Mejía peralta via Creative Commons)
Derek Walcott at the Festival Internacional de Poesía en Granada. (Jorge Mejía peralta via Creative Commons)

We’ll dive once more into the dazzling literary legacy of Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott.

Poet and playwright Derek Walcott died last week at 87 on his native Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. He wasn’t shy. He once called himself “the heir to Milton.” But he ran the language of empire – English – through the ocean wave life of the islands. The colonized. Verse, he wrote “crisp as sand, clear as sunlight.” We want to hear more of it. This hour On Point:  we are setting sail on the grand, exuberant poetry of Derek Walcott. — Tom Ashbrook


Askold Melnyczuk, novelist, essayist and poet. Associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Adriana Ramirez, faculty member, non-fiction creative writing at Carlow University. Critic-at-large, Los Angeles Times. ( @zadri) Robert Lee, St. Lucian poet and literary critic. Close friend of Derek Walcott. Information officer at the Folk Research Center.

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Derek Walcott’s poetry had grandeur, an exuberance of language — “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. I found his language choices unexpected and the images he presented familiar, but made new through his language.”

New Yorker: Derek Walcott, A Mighty Poet, Has Died — “Even if I didn’t understand what I read on a literal level, I felt Derek’s lines crawling through my flesh as smooth as silver river snakes gliding along a watery surface: his lines slithered and stood straight up, first in your eyes, then in your mind. The son of an amateur watercolorist, Derek was aware of the look of things and how to describe what things looked like, including memory.”

New York Times: Derek Walcott and the Poetry of Liberalism — “In a larger sense, too, the passing of Mr. Walcott feels like the closing of an era. For he was the last survivor of a group of three poets who, in the late 20th century, exerted an unparalleled moral influence on American letters, even though — or perhaps because — they were not American.”

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