The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Poetry on 2017-03-17 19:47Z by Steven

The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
640 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780374125615

Derek Walcott (1930-2017)

Selected by Glyn Maxwell

A collection spanning the whole of Derek Walcott’s celebrated, inimitable, essential career

“He gives us more than himself or ‘a world’; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language.” Alongside Joseph Brodsky’s words of praise one might mention the more concrete honors that the renowned poet Derek Walcott has received: a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry; the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948–2013 draws from every stage of the poet’s storied career. Here are examples of his very earliest work, like “In My Eighteenth Year,” published when the poet himself was still a teenager; his first widely celebrated verse, like “A Far Cry from Africa,” which speaks of violence, of loyalties divided in one’s very blood; his mature work, like “The Schooner Flight” from The Star-Apple Kingdom; and his late masterpieces, like the tender “Sixty Years After,” from the 2010 collection White Egrets.

Across sixty-five years, Walcott grapples with the themes that have defined his work as they have defined his life: the unsolvable riddle of identity; the painful legacy of colonialism on his native Caribbean island of St. Lucia; the mysteries of faith and love and the natural world; the Western canon, celebrated and problematic; the trauma of growing old, of losing friends, family, one’s own memory. This collection, selected by Walcott’s friend the English poet Glyn Maxwell, will prove as enduring as the questions, the passions, that have driven Walcott to write for more than half a century.

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Derek Walcott, Poet and Nobel Laureate of the Caribbean, Dies at 87

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2017-03-17 17:19Z by Steven

Derek Walcott, Poet and Nobel Laureate of the Caribbean, Dies at 87

The New York Times

William Grimes

Derek Walcott in 1986. Credit Jill Krementz, All Rights Reserved

Derek Walcott, whose intricately metaphorical poetry captured the physical beauty of the Caribbean, the harsh legacy of colonialism and the complexities of living and writing in two cultural worlds, bringing him a Nobel Prize in Literature, died early Friday morning at his home near Gros Islet in St. Lucia. He was 87.

His death was confirmed by his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. No cause was given, but he had been in poor health for some time, the publisher said.

Mr. Walcott’s expansive universe revolved around a tiny sun, the island of St. Lucia. Its opulent vegetation, blinding white beaches and tangled multicultural heritage inspired, in its most famous literary son, an ambitious body of work that seemingly embraced every poetic form, from the short lyric to the epic…

…As a poet, Mr. Walcott plumbed the paradoxes of identity intrinsic to his situation. He was a mixed-race poet living on a British-ruled island whose people spoke French-based Creole or English.

In “A Far Cry From Africa,” included in “In a Green Night” — his first poetry collection to be published outside St. Lucia — he wrote:

Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?

Derek Alton Walcott was born on Jan. 23, 1930, in Castries, a port city on the island of St. Lucia. His father, Warwick, a schoolteacher and watercolorist, died when he was an infant, and he was raised by his schoolteacher mother, the former Alix Maarlin.

Both his parents, like many St. Lucians, were the products of racially mixed marriages. Derek was raised as a Methodist, which made him an exception on St. Lucia, a largely Roman Catholic island, and at his Catholic secondary school, St. Mary’s College…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Vincent van Gogh and Barack Obama in a poem by Derek Walcott

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-12-21 22:44Z by Steven

Vincent van Gogh and Barack Obama in a poem by Derek Walcott

Literature & Aesthetics
Volume 20, Number 2 (December 2010)
pages 181-192

Thijs Weststeijn
Department of Art, Religion, and Cultural Sciences
University of Amsterdam

Remember Vincent, saint
of all sunstroke…!
The sun explodes into irises,
the shadows are crossing like crows,
they settle, clawing the hair,
yellow is screaming.
Dear Theo, I shall go mad.

Jean-François Millet – The Gleaners (1857)

Speaking here is a young Antillean artist, in a poem by Derek Walcott (1930), a writer from the island of Saint Lucia. The wish to identify with Van Gogh is a theme from Walcott’s own past: originally he wanted to be a painter. Together with a friend he decided to depict every corner of their windswept island. This ambition explains why Walcott’s vision of poetry is so often characterized as “painterly.” He calls his writings “frescoes of the New World,” and declares: “I still smell linseed oil in the wild views / Of villages and the tang of turpentine… Salt wind encouraged us, and the surf’s white noise.”

Walcott’s artistic role models were the nineteenth-century masters. Recently he dedicated an epic poem, Tiepolo’s Hound (2000), to the impressionist Camille Pissarro. The hybrid origins of Pissarro, born in the Danish colony on the Leeward Island of Saint Thomas, son of a mother from the Dominican Republic and a Portuguese-Jewish father, meant he connected well with Walcott’s work. Here the Antillean melting pot of different cultures is an important theme. Before this, Gauguin had already been one of the poet’s heroes: his journey to Martinique supposedly turned him into a “Creole painter.” Moreover, Walcott was strongly attracted to social themes. He describes the continued impression made by a reproduction of Millet’s The Gleaners in his childhood home.

So it should come as no surprise that, in his younger years in particular, Walcott was inspired by Vincent van Gogh. The Dutch master played a role in Walcott’s descriptions of sun-drenched landscapes: he sought after a creative intoxication “as Van Gogh’s shadow rippling on a cornfield.” In this way Walcott’s poetry opens an Antillean perspective on the shadow of Van Gogh and how it shifts over issues of birth ground and origins.

Although Walcott’s more recent poems have paid less attention to Van Gogh, a political revolution returned him to the love of his younger years: the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. This event confronted him once more with themes such as racial and national identity which had already played a major role in his early work. Walcott wrote some lines in response to the election results. Here, he uses Van Gogh’s imagery to give poetic form to the history and future expectations of black people in the New World.

Walcott’s poem, which features both Van Gogh and Obama, combines artistic imagination with historical and social themes and political reality. This means it can be interpreted in a number of ways. The following interpretation takes a specific viewpoint, namely that from the person the poem is dedicated to: the 44th American president. After all, Obama himself has written extensively about the themes that determined the course of his life. The president and the poet have each at some time labeled themselves as “mongrel,” referring to their mixed European-African origins. As it will become clear, they agree on yet more things, such as their idea that poetical imagery can improve the world.

Shortly after the elections in November 2008, Obama was photographed carrying a book under his arm: Walcott’s collected works. What was the significance of this photograph?…

Read the entire article here.

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The Discourse of Interracial and Multicultural Identity in 19th and 20th Century American Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-10-31 04:07Z by Steven

The Discourse of Interracial and Multicultural Identity in 19th and 20th Century American Literature

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
May 2007
373 pages
AAT 3257969

Dale M. Taylor

A Dissertation Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

The narratives of and about mixed-race people have provided a varied and rich artistic canvas. Using various literary works as tools for investigation, this project explores a discourse for mixed-race people and determines to what extent that discourse shapes conceptions about them. In addition, it examines to what extent subjects of mixed-racial heritage and identity establish and form new cultures, struggle for the validity of their existence in spite of racial binaries, affirm their experiences and to some degree question the validity of race itself. A discourse of mixed-race subjects is related to a discourse about race. Issues of hybridity, creolization and mestizaje have affected postcolonial subjects and Americans throughout the Diaspora. The project will consider people of mixed Native American, African, Latin, Asian, European descent and others. Literature involving and about mixed-raced subjects is their history—whether fiction or nonfiction—a history that has been silenced by political, economic and racial ideology. Mixed-racial and mixed-cultural subjects exist in the “between” spaces of racial binaries. They are “called into place” by self and others through discourse to define and negotiate power. Among the writers and works used are: Gigantic, by Marc Nesbitt, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, “Désirée’s Baby” by Kate Chopin, “Stones of the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, “After Many Days,” by Fannie Barrier Williams, Passing by Nella Larsen, “The Downward Path To Wisdom” by Katherine Anne Porter, “The Displaced Person” by Flannery O’Connor, Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, “Origami” by Susan K. Ito, and poetry by Derek Walcott, Walt Whitman and others.


    • Introduction
    • Introduction
    • “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin
    • “Stones of the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
    • “After Many Days: A Christmas Story” by Fannie Barrier Williams
    • Closing Remarks For Chapter Two
    • Introduction
    • “The Downward Path To Wisdom” by K.A. Porter
    • “The Displaced Person” by Flannery O’Connor
    • Passing by Nella Larsen
    • Closing Remarks For Chapter Three
    • Introduction
    • Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith
    • The Human Stain by Philip Roth
    • Gigantic: “The Ones Who May Kill You In The Morning” by Marc Nesbitt
    • Closing Remarks For Chapter Four
    • Conclusion
    • Appendix A – Permissions Letter Professor Natasha Trethewey
    • Appendix B – Permissions Letter Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture The New York Public Library

Purchase the dissertation here.

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Empire’s progeny: The representation of mixed race characters in twentieth century South African and Caribbean literature

Posted in Africa, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa on 2010-08-06 00:44Z by Steven

Empire’s progeny: The representation of mixed race characters in twentieth century South African and Caribbean literature

355 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3249543

Kathleen A. Koljian
University of Connecticut

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, 2006.

This dissertation is an examination of the portrayal of mixed race characters in South African and Caribbean literature. Through a close reading of the works of representative Caribbean [Derek Walcott, Michelle Cliff, and Jamaica Kincaid] and South African authors, [Bessie Head, Zoe Wicomb, and Zakes Mda] my dissertation will construct a more valid paradigm for the understanding of mixed-race characters and the ways in which authors from the Caribbean and South Africa typically deploy racially mixed characters to challenge the social order imposed during colonial domination. These authors emphasize the nuanced and hierarchical conceptualizations of racialized identity in South Africa and the Caribbean. Their narratives stand in marked contrast to contemporary models of ‘hybridity’ promulgated by prominent post-colonial critics such as Homi Bhabha and his adherents. In this dissertation, I hope to provide a more historically and culturally situated paradigm for understanding narrative portrayals of mixed race characters as an alternative to contemporary theories of ‘hybridity’. Current paradigms within post-colonial theory are compromised by their lack of historical and cultural specificity. In failing to take into account specific and long-standing attitudes toward racial identity prevalent in particular colonized cultures, these critics founder in attempts to define the significance of the racially mixed character in postcolonial literature. Bhabha, for example, fails to recognize that the formation of racialized identity within the Caribbean and South Africa is not imagined in simple binary terms but within a distinctly articulated racial hierarchy. Furthermore, Bhabha does not acknowledge the evolution of attitudes and ideas that have shaped the construction and understanding of mixed-race identity. After a brief survey of the scientific discourse of race in the colonial era, and a representative sampling of key thematic elements and tropes in early colonial literature to demonstrate the intersection of race theory and literature, close readings of individual narratives will demonstrate the limitations of current models of ‘hybridity’ and illuminate the ways in which individual authors and texts are constructed within (and sometimes constrained by) long-standing and pervasive discourses of racialized identity.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Empire’s Progeny
  • “A Small Corner of the Earth”: Bessie Head
  • “Colouring the Truth”: Zoe Wicomb
  • Birthing the Rainbow Nation: Zakes Mda’s Madonna of Excelsior
  • The “Mulatto of Style”: Derek Walcott’s Carribean Aesthetics
  • “Only Sadness Comes from Mixture”: Clare Savage’s Matrilineal Quest
  • Xeula and Oya: Jamaica Kincaid’s Autobiography of My Mother
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Read a preview here.
Purchase the full dissertation here.

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