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Walcott, Derek (Alton) (1930- ).

poet, playwright. Born of mixed racial and ethnic heritage on St. Lucia in the West Indies, Walcott grew up speaking a French and English patois. His education at St. Mary's College on his native island and the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, was a traditional English one. His poetry blends English verse forms and Caribbean rhythms. He published three collections before his first major book, In a Green Night: Poems, 1948-1960 (1962), was published in England and brought him wide attention. Selected Poems came two years later and was followed by The Castaway (1965); The Gulf (1969); Another Life (1973), a long narrative poem; and The Star Apple Kingdom (1979), a collection of narrative verse based on Caribbean history and scenery.

Walcott worked as a journalist and taught in the West Indies, where he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959. Beginning in 1981 he taught at several U.S. universities including Columbia and Harvard, before joining the creative writing faculty at Boston University in 1985. His collection The Fortunate Traveller (1982) deals with experiences in the U.S. and elsewhere. Midsummer (1983) is a cycle of 54 verses recounting a year in the poet's life spent partly in the U.S. and in the islands. Collected Poems 1948-1984 appeared in 1986 and The Arkansas Testament a year later. Omeros (1990) is a complex epic poem using the ocean as a central theme. Walcott has had a major role in promoting West Indian theater, including production of his own plays dealing with island subjects and utilizing Caribbean speech and folklore. Among them are Henri Christophe (1950), Drums and Colours (1958), Dream on Monkey Mountain (1970), Ti-Jean and His Brothers (1971), The Jokes of Seville and O Babylon! (both 1978), Remembrance and Pantomime (both 1980), and Three Plays (1986). Walcott has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

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Publication:Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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