Derek Walcott: Wikis

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Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott at his honorary dinner, Amsterdam, May 20th 2008
Born January 23, 1930 (1930-01-23) (age 80)
Castries, Saint Lucia
Occupation Poet, Playwright
Nationality Saint Lucia
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
1992
Children Peter Walcott, Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, Anna Walcott-Hardy

The Hon. Derek Alton Walcott, OCC (born January 23, 1930) is a Caribbean poet, playwright, writer and visual artist. Born in Castries, Saint Lucia[1], he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

His work, which developed independently of the schools of magic realism emerging in both South America and Europe at around the time of his birth, is intensely related to the symbolism of myth and its relationship to culture. He is best known for his epic poem Omeros, an allusive, loose reworking of Homeric story and tradition into a journey within the Caribbean and beyond to the Africa, New England, the American West, Canada, and London (with frequent reference to the Greek Islands).

Walcott founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959, which has produced his plays (and others) since that time, and remains active with its Board of Directors. He also founded Boston Playwrights' Theatre at Boston University in 1981 with the hope of creating a home for new plays in Boston, Massachusetts. Walcott retired from teaching poetry and drama in the Creative Writing Department at Boston University in 2007. In fall 2009, he will commence a three year distinguished scholar in residence position at University of Alberta. He continues to give readings and lectures throughout the world. He divides his time between his home in the Caribbean and New York City.

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Walcott as playwright and theorist

Walcott has published more than twenty plays. The majority of these plays 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. Epistemological, ontological, economical, political, and social themes make regular appearances in Walcott's plays.

In his 1970 essay on art (and specifically theatre) in his native region, What the Twilight Says: An Overture (published in Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays; see bibliography), Walcott bemoans the lasting effects of over 400 years of colonial rule. He 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 (10). [...] Our bodies think in one language and move in another...”(31). In this manner, Walcott shifts his poetic language between formal English and patois to highlight the linguistic dexterity of the Caribbean people. While recognising the profound psychological and material wrongs of the colonial project, Walcott simultaneously celebrates the hybridisation of Antillean cultures. His epic poem Omeros exposes the complex cultural strains that converge in his native St. Lucia, celebrating at once the European, Amerindian, and African heritage shared by the islanders.

Discussions of epistemological effects of colonization inform plays such as Ti-Jean and his Brothers and Pantomime. One of the eponymous brothers in Ti-Jean and his Brothers (Mi-Jean) 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.

Walcott probes the colonial dialectic in his two-hander Pantomime. In the play, Walcott revisions the story of Robinson Crusoe / Man Friday in an effort to destabilize the colonial power constructs. Reversing the roles of master / servant, Walcott temporarily lends to Trinidadian Jackson, a guest house factotum and calypso singer, the role of Crusoe, with Harry, a British ex-patriate and owner, the identity of “Thursday,” thus resetting Daniel Defoe's legend in pre-colonial days. Recalling his fascination with the Edenic concept of naming ("Muse" 3-5), Walcott highlights the problem that faces the Caribbean writer by having Jackson re-appropriate the material objects around him, re-christening them in a pseudo-African language, calling the table “patamba,” the chair “banda,” etc, recalling the poesía negra's use of jitanjáfora (jitanjáfora is a term for the use of onomatopoeia in Spanish) mentioned earlier. The scene at first reflects Jackson’s agency: he has the ability to resurrect the language of his ancestors and regain ownership of the material of his island, teaching his minion Harry, the Anglo Thursday, his new tongue and establishing authority over his surroundings. The impossibility of his mission surfaces, however, as Jackson immediately forgets the words he had just spoken: Harry: "You never called anything by the same name twice."

Jackson's inability to resurrect a dead language reflects the Caribbean's lack of a single, discernible cultural history; Harry's retort reveals the violence inherent in the linguistic indoctrination of the colonial powers: language through the barrel of a gun. Walcott writes in English, the language of Trinidad, but he also makes full use of the local dialects, or what Barbadian writer Edward Kamau Brathwaite calls “nation language,” and portrays Jackson as code-switching throughout the play to reveal his culture’s linguistic dexterity.

Walcott's plays weave together a variety of forms; including those of the folktale, morality play, allegory, fable, ritual and myth; as well as using emblematic and mythological characters to address issues in non-realistic ways.

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Padel controversy

In 1981 Walcott was accused of sexual harassment of a freshman student at Harvard, and [2] reached a settlement in 1996 over a sexual harassment allegation at Boston University.[3]

In 2009 Walcott was a leading candidate for the position of Oxford Professor of Poetry but withdrew his candidancy, after a whispering campaign suddenly brought these two sexual harassment allegations to light.[4][5]

The position was awarded to Ruth Padel, but she resigned after only 9 days, when her involvement in the smear campaign against Walcott was revealed. Padel's comportment in the affair was roundly criticized by a number of respected poets in a letter of support addressed to Walcott and published in the Times Literary Supplement[6].

In 2010 he accepted an offer from the University of Essex to become the new Professor of Poetry of the university, from which he received an honorary doctorate in 2008. [7]

Works

Poetry collections

Years are linked to "[year] in poetry" articles:

  • 1948 25 Poems
  • 1949 Epitaph for the Young: Xll Cantos
  • 1951 Poems
  • 1962 In a Green Night: Poems 1948—60
  • 1964 Selected Poems
  • 1965 The Castaway and Other Poems
  • 1969 The Gulf and Other Poems
  • 1973 Another Life
  • 1976 Sea Grapes
  • 1979 The Star-Apple Kingdom
  • 1981 Selected Poetry
  • 1981 The Fortunate Traveller
  • 1983 The Caribbean Poetry of Derek Walcott and the Art of Romare Bearden
  • 1984 Midsummer
  • 1986 Collected Poems, 1948-1984
  • 1987 The Arkansas Testament
  • 1990 Omeros
  • 1997 The Bounty
  • 2000 Tiepolo's Hound
  • 2004 The Prodigal
  • 2007 Selected Poems (Edited, selected, and with an introduction by Edward Baugh)
  • Forthcoming "White Egrets"

Plays

  • (1950) Henri Christophe: A Chronicle in Seven Scenes
  • (1951) Harry Dernier: A Play for Radio Production
  • (1953) Wine of the Country
  • (1954) The Sea at Dauphin: A Play in One Act
  • (1957) Ione
  • (1958) Drums and Colours: An Epic Drama
  • (1958) Ti-Jean and His Brothers
  • (1966) Malcochon: or, Six in the Rain
  • (1967) Dream on Monkey Mountain
  • (1970) In a Fine Castle
  • (1974) The Joker of Seville
  • (1974) The Charlatan
  • (1976) O Babylon!
  • (1977) Remembrance
  • (1978) Pantomime
  • (1980) The Joker of Seville and O Babylon!: Two Plays
  • (1982) The Isle Is Full of Noises
  • (1986) Three Plays (The Last Carnival, Beef, No Chicken, and A Branch of the Blue Nile)
  • (1991) Steel
  • (1993) Odyssey: A Stage Version
  • (1997) The Capeman (lyrics, in collaboration with Paul Simon)
  • (2002) Walker and The Ghost Dance

Further reading

  • Baer, William, ed. Conversations with Derek Walcott. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1996.
  • Baugh, Edward, Derek Walcott: Memory as Vision: Another Life. London: Longman, 1978.
  • Baugh, Edward, Derek Walcott. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.
  • Breslin, Paul. Nobody's Nation: Reading Derek Walcott. Chicago: U. Chicago, 2001. ISBN 0-226-07426-9
  • Brown, Stewart, ed., The Art of Derek Walcott. Chester Springs, PA.: Dufour, 1991; Bridgend: Seren Books, 1992.
  • Burnett, Paula, Derek Walcott: Politics and Poetics. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.
  • Hamner, Robert D., Ed. Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents, 1993. ISBN 0-89410-142-0
  • Hamner, Robert D. Derek Walcott. Updated Edition. Twayne's World Authors Series. TWAS 600. New York: Twayne, 1993.
  • Heaney, Seamus, ‘The Murmur of Malvern’, in The Government of the Tongue: The 1986 T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures and Other Critical Writings. London: Faber and Faber, 1988, pp. 23-29.
  • King, Bruce, Derek Walcott and West Indian Drama: ‘Not Only a Playwright But a Company’: The Trinidad Theatre Workshop 1959-1993. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  • King, Bruce, Derek Walcott, A Caribbean Life. Oxford: OUP, 2000.
  • Lennard, John, 'Derek Walcott' in Jay Parini, ed., World Writers in English. 2 vols, New York & London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004, II.721–46.
  • Parker, Michael and Roger Starkey, Eds. New Casebooks: Postcolonial Literatures: Achebe, Ngugi, Desai, Walcott. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1995. ISBN 0-333-60801-1
  • Sinnewe, Dirk, Divided to the Vein? Derek Walcott’s Drama and the Formation of Cultural Identities. Saarbrücken: Königshausen und Neumann, 2001 [Reihe Saarbrücker Beiträge 17]. ISBN 3-8260-2073-1
  • Terada, Rei, Derek Walcott’s Poetry: American Mimicry. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992.
  • Thieme, John, Derek Walcott. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1999.
  • Walcott, Derek. Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays. New York: Farrar, 1970. ISBN 0-374-50860-7

See also

References

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Derek Alton Walcott (born January 23, 1930) is a West Indian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who writes mainly in English. Born in Castries, St. Lucia, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

DEREK WALCOTT

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Sourced

  • 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.
    • Interview with Ed Hirsch (1986), Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, Eighth Series (Penguin, 1988)
  • Any serious attempt to try to do something worthwhile is ritualistic.
    • Interview with Ed Hirsch (1986), Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, Eighth Series (Penguin, 1988)
  • The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.
    • Interview with Ed Hirsch (1986), Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, Eighth Series (Penguin, 1988)

"The Schooner Flight" (1980)

  • I'm just a red nigger who love the sea,
    I had a sound colonial education,
    I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
    and either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation.
    • "Adios, Carenage," lines 40-44
  • I try to forget what happiness was,
    and when that don't work, I study the stars.
    • "After the Storm"

Collected Poems, 1948-1984 (1986)

  • 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.

    • "Love after Love"
  • Peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.
    • "Love after Love"

External links

Wikipedia
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