Poet and playwright, Derek Walcott was born on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia in 1930. From a young age, he had a cosmopolitan and varied interest in the arts, originally studying to be a painter (inspired by his artistic father, who died when he was a baby). At 14, Walcott published his first poem in a local paper--its Methodist tones prompted heavy criticism from the Catholic-dominated ideology of St. Lucia.
Undeterred, Walcott continued to develop his craft. By the time he was 19 years old, he had self-published a book of poems. Walcott earned a scholarship to University College of the West Indies in Jamaica.
In 1953, Walcott moved to Trinidad. He worked as a teacher and journalist, and founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959. The theatre was "homeless," according to one of its instructors, moving from venue to venue over the years. The workshop not only produced Walcott's plays, but also diverse world dramatists such as Jean Genet, Ntozake Shange, Athol Fugard, and Wole Soyinka.
In 1967, Walcott wrote Dream on Monkey Mountain, a short play that (like many of his works) explored the oppression of colonialism. In 1970, NBC broadcast a production, and in 1971, it was produced Off-Broadway, and won the Obie Award for Best Foreign Play. In addition to the themes of colonialism and postcolonialism, many of Walcott's works--plays and poetry--explore the multiplicity of cultures in the West Indies. His Methodist faith is also a profound influence on his work.
Walcott founded the Bost Playwrights' Theatre in 1981 after he was hired to teach at Boston University. He taught at the University for decades. Walcott won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992 for his poetry. In addition to other awards and honors, he was given the distinction of Knight Commander of the Order of St. Lucia in 2016.
Derek Walcott died at his home in 2017, following a long illness.
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