Derek Walcott: Collected Poems Background

Derek Walcott: Collected Poems Background

Derek Walcott was born on the island of St. Lucia in 1930 as a twin along with his brother Roderick. Raised by a mother who was a teacher with a love for literature, Walcott manifested a talent for writing verse fairly early on. He was barely a teenager the first time he experienced the joy of seeing his poetry published; he had self-published his first anthology of poems before he left his teens behind forever.

Walcott is a noted dramatist as well as poet and throughout his literature are found several recurring themes and motifs situated within a polar oppositional conflict of duality: black versus white, power versus powerlessness, ruler versus ruled. The effects of British colonialism in the Caribbean is the foundation that underlies his construction of dualism and, not coincidentally, provides his work with it fiery power. That undeniable power of theme and the artistic flourish with which he demonstrates his mastery of the language ultimately resulted in Walcott receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

Collected Poems won the 1985 Los Angeles Book Prize for Poetry and covers the verse Walcott wrote or published between 1948 and 1984. Even in his titles, there is a symmetry of duality commenting upon a larger thematic discourse with the transposition of the years marking not the time span of creativity, but also addressing the titling mechanism behind George Orwell’s groundbreaking dystopic novel which in the year of Big Brother—1984—was chosen precisely due to the year in which it was written—1948.

Walcott’s poems do not directly reflect upon Orwell’s novel, but contained within their powerful imagery is a substantive undertow of thematic considerations on the nature of authority and the struggle for freedom.

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