Nobel laureate poet Derek Walcott dies in St Lucia

A 2012 file photo shows 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Derek Walcott.
A 2012 file photo shows 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Derek Walcott.PHOTO: EPA

CASTRIES, St Lucia (REUTERS) - Poet Derek Walcott, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992 and helped thrust Caribbean writing into the global spotlight, died peacefully at his home in St. Lucia on Friday (March 17). He was 87.

Jeff Seroy, a spokesman for publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, said Walcott died shortly after 5am on Friday. The cause of death was not immediately known, but Seroy said Walcott had been ill for some time and had recently returned home from a hospital stay.

His longtime companion, Sigrid Nama, was with him at the time of his death, Seroy said.

“My deepest sympathies go out to Derek’s family (and) his children,” St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said, calling the poet, painter and playwright “a Caribbean patriot.”

He said the country’s flag would be flown at half mast in Walcott’s honour until Tuesday.

Walcott, who was born on the volcanic island in 1930, came to the attention of the public in 1962 with a collection of poems called, In A Green Night, which celebrated the Caribbean.

In Omeros (1990), an epic poem considered his most ambitious and accomplished work, he invoked Caribbean voices through Greek myth, drawing on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize, and in its citation, the Swedish Academy said: “He has both African and European blood in his veins. In him, West Indian culture has found its great poet.”

Britain’s former poet laureate Andrew Motion described Walcott as a member of the great Nobel-winning poetic generation.

“He did as much or more than anyone to win the global respect for Caribbean writing that it deserves and now enjoys,” Motion said in an e-mailed statement.

Walcott’s children, Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Anna Walcott-Hardy, said his funeral would be held on the island.