SAN JUAN – St. Lucian poet and playwright Derek Walcott, recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992, died on Friday at his home on that eastern Caribbean island after a long illness, his family said. He was 87.
Walcott, who was born in Castries, the island’s capital, and made his debut as an author at the age of 18 with the publication of a verse collection titled “25 Poems,” first gained international attention with “In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960,” which was published in London in 1962.
After working as a professor at different universities in the Caribbean, he moved to the United States in 1984 and began teaching literature and creative writing at Boston University.
Six years later, he produced what many critics regard as his masterpiece, “Omeros,” an epic book-length poem that the Swedish Academy praised when it awarded him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992.
“This is a work of incomparable ambitiousness, in which Walcott weaves his many strands into a whole,” the academy said. “Its weft is a rich one, deriving from the poet’s wide-ranging contacts with literature, history and reality.”
In conferring literature’s highest honor on Walcott, the academy said his multicultural roots were a key source of inspiration, noting that his loyalties to the Caribbean, the English language and his African origin were vital to an understanding of his work.
Besides his more celebrated contributions as a poet, Walcott also was a playwright who founded a theater company in Trinidad and Tobago and produced numerous works for the stage, most notably the 1970 play “Dream on Monkey Mountain.”
Walcott had been suffering from kidney problems and was undergoing dialysis treatment at the time of his death.