WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Poet and playwright Derek Walcott, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992, will read selections from his works when he visits the Whitman College campus Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Walcott, part of the Whitman College Visiting Writers Reading Series, will present the annual Walt Whitman Lecture at 7 p.m. in Cordiner Hall, corner of Park and Boyer, on the Whitman campus. His presentation is free and open to the public. Sponsors include the college’s Office of the President, the English Department and the Mabel Groseclose Fund.
Walcott was born at Castries, St. Lucia, a Caribbean island in the West Indies, of both African and European ancestry, in 1930. His mixed heritage is a theme that runs through much of his work. Considered by many to be the most important West Indian poet and dramatist writing in English today, Walcott has lived much of his life in Trinidad, but also has worked as a professor of poetry at the University of Boston.
Walcott was educated at St. Mary’s College, Castries, won a scholarship to the University College of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, and later studied theater in New York. His first play, “Henri Christopher,” was performed in 1950, the same year he founded the St. Lucia Arts Guild.
As a poet Walcott made his debut at the age of 18 with "Twenty Five Poems,"but his widespread recognition came with “In a Green Night” in 1964, in which his goal was to create a literature truthful to the West Indian life. In "The Fortunate Traveler" (1981) and "Midsummer" (1984) Walcott explored his own life as a black writer in America who had become estranged from his Caribbean homeland. Walcott has called himself “a mulatto of style.” His most ambitious work to date is the epic poem “Omeros” (1990), which takes its title from the Greek word for Homer, and recalls the drama of the "Odyssey" in a Caribbean setting.
Walcott has written in both standard English and in West Indian dialect. His plays owe much to folk and Creole tradition and history, and combine story-telling, singing, dancing and the rhythms of calypso, mingling verse and prose.