Derek Walcott

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Derek Walcott in 2008

Derek Alton Walcott (born January 23, 1930March 17 2017) was a West Indian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who wrote mainly in English. Born in Castries, St. Lucia, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.


  • 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)
  • Good science and good art are always about a condition of awe … I don’t think there is any other function for the poet or the scientist in the human tribe but the astonishment of the soul.
    • Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas are Born (Penguin, 1990), pp. 176
  • I never thought I would see the day when America (which is based on the idea of liberty, from which the world Liberal comes) would become so self-centered and hypocritical. I mean if democracy considers liberal to be a term of abuse, then we should be terrified. A liberal is someone who believes in liberty. And if it is wrong to be liberal, then the other side has to be fascist.
    • Conversations with Derek Walcott (University Press Mississippi, 1996, page.165)

"A Far Cry from Africa" (1962)[edit]

  • The violence of beast on beast is read
    As natural law, but upright man
    Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.

"The Schooner Flight" (1980)[edit]

  • 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)[edit]

  • 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"


  • Then silence is sawn in half by a dragonfly
    as eels sign their names along the bottom-sand
    when the sunrise brightens the river's memory

    and waves of huge ferns are nodding to the sea's sound.
    Although the smoke forgets the earth from which is ascends
    and the nettles guard the holes where the laurels were killed

    an iguana hears the axes, clouding each lens
    over its lost name, when the hunched island was called
    'Iounalao' 'Where it iguana is from'

    But, taking its own time, the iguana will scale
    the rigging of vines in a year, its dewlap fanned,
    its elbows akimbo, its deliberate tail

    moving with the island. The slit pods of its eyes
    ripened in a pause that lasted for centuries,
    that rose with the Aruacs' smoke till a new race

    unknown to the lizard stood measuring the trees.
    These were their pillars that fell, leaving a blue space
    for a single God where the old gods stood before,

    The first god was a gommier. The generator
    began with a whine, and a shark, with sidewise jaw,
    sent the chips flying like mackrel over water

    into trembling weeds

White Egrets[edit]

  • No masterpieces in huge frames to worship,
    … and yet there are the days
    when every street corner rounds itself into
    a sunlit surprise, a painting or a phrase,
    canoes drawn up by the market, the harbour’s blue,
    the barracks. So much to do still, all of it praise.

Quotes about Derek Walcott[edit]

External links[edit]

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