“In a Green Night” by Derek Walcott (1930-2017)

From the New Statesman, 10 September 1960.

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The Nobel laureate poet Derek Walcott has died, aged 87. Walcott was born in Saint Lucia, in the West Indies, in 1930, to a painter father (who died when Derek was one) and a headmistress mother. As a young man he pursued both painting and writing, and published his first poetry collection in 1948, while still in his teens.

He studied English literature, French and Latin at University College of the West Indies in Jamaica and in 1953 moved to Trinidad, where he worked as a theatre and art critic. Having already written several plays, in 1959 he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. Walcott’s breakthrough as a poet came with his 1962 collection In a Green Night: Poems 1948–1960.

His early poetry, such as “In a Green Night”, (see the clipping from the New Statesman archive, below), with its references to Andrew Marvell’s “Bermudas”, was influenced by English metaphysical poets and the classics, but later in his career he began to embrace Caribbean tradition and dialect – as seen in his Homeric epic Omeros (1990). On awarding Walcott the Nobel prize in 1992, the Swedish Academy cited his “poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment”.