Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Books

Derek Walcott, poet and Nobel laureate, dies at 87

Posted on

AP Photo/ Berenice Bautista

Revered poet and playwright Derek Walcott, died early Friday morning at age 87. He passed away at his home in St. Lucia, according to The New York Times.

Walcott, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992, was a native of St. Lucia. The scribe received numerous accolades throughout his lengthy career (his first poem was published in a newspaper when he was just 14 years old), including Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1972 and the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets.

Though he taught at American and British universities, Walcott’s work was heavily inspired by his Caribbean upbringing. His bibliography consists of two dozen poetry collections — one of which, Collected Poems, was recommended by Barack Obama during his presidency — and even more plays, including Dream on Monkey Mountain and The Capeman — a collaboration with Paul Simon — as well as eight additional books.

Walcott first made a splash with his 1962 collection called In a Green Night, after which his status as an influential Caribbean writer was cemented. Following his 1990 epic, entitled Omeros, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the committee lauded his work as “a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.” They then concluded, “West Indian culture has found its great poet.”

Upon Walcott’s death, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced that flags would be flying at half-mast and offered his condolences to Walcott’s family. “When everyone speaks of excellence, the two names that stand tall in Saint Lucia’s history are Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott. As such, today is a historical day, as it marks the passing of Sir Derek,” he said in a statement. “He was always very consistent and emotional about being Caribbean and being original. His passing is unfortunate, and I know that it is very difficult for his family. My deepest sympathies go out to them and to all the people who have collaborated with Sir Derek over the years. This is a great loss to us in Saint Lucia, and clearly a great loss to the world, but we can still reflect on his incredible achievements. He has made all Saint Lucians and Caribbean people very proud.”

No cause of death had been announced, but Walcott was known to have been in poor health for awhile. He is survived by three children, as well as the many artists who were inspired by him, including Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who honored him on Twitter.

Miranda posted a steady stream of stanzas after that, concluding:

See more tributes to Walcott below.