Derek Walcott, a Nobel-prize winning poet known for capturing the essence of his native Caribbean, has died on the island of St Lucia. He was 87. Walcott’s death in the eastern Caribbean nation was first confirmed today by his son, Peter. “Derek Alton Walcott, poet, playwright, and painter died peacefully today at his home in Cap Estate, Saint Lucia,” read a family statement released later in the morning. It said the funeral would be held in St. Lucia and details would be announced shortly.
The prolific and versatile poet received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992 after being shortlisted for the honor for many years. In selecting Walcott, the academy cited the great luminosity” of his writings including the 1990 “Omeros,” a 64-chapter Caribbean epic it praised as “majestic.”
“In him, West Indian culture has found its great poet,” said the Swedish academy in awarding the USD 1.2 million prize to Walcott.
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St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said flags throughout the island would be lowered to half-staff to honor Walcott, one of the most renowned figures to emerge from the small country.
“It is a great loss to Saint Lucia,” he said. “It is a great loss to the world.”
Walcott, who was of African, Dutch and English ancestry, said his writing reflected the “very rich and complicated experience” of life in the Caribbean. His dazzling, painterly work earned him a reputation as one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century.
With passions ranging from watercolor painting to teaching to theater, Walcott’s work was widely praised for its depth and bold use of metaphor, and its mix of sensuousness and technical prowess. He compared his feeling for poetry to a religious avocation.