Farewell, Poet - The National Library of Jamaica

Farewell, Poet

Statement on the death of Sir Derek Walcott

by Mrs. Winsome Hudson, National Librarian and CEO of the National Library of Jamaica

 

So Derek Walcott, the poet is dead.

But, Derek Walcott was not just any poet; he was the poet who unconditionally loved the people of the Antilles. Read The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory, his Nobel Prize in Literature lecture and you will fall totally in love with this Caribbean man and poet because he loved us so deeply.  He loved the land and the people of the Caribbean in all our brokenness and our wholeness; he saw our light rather than our darkness.

A young Derek Walcott  (image from the National Library of Jamaica)

Walcott was the recipient of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Order of St. Lucia, the Order of the British Empire, and Order of the Caribbean Community. His poetry collections, such as Another Life, Omeros, White Egrets and plays, including Ti-Jean and His Brothers, and Dream on Monkey Mountain are masterpieces of the Caribbean literary canon. But more than those, Derek Walcott is  / was the unofficial Poet Laureate of the West Indies and the National Library of Jamaica deeply mourns his passing.  His connection to Jamaica was intimate; he was among the first students in the newly established Arts Faculty in the recently established University of the West Indies, he taught at Jamaica College, wrote for the Public Opinion, was an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica and he dearly loved this Star Apple Kingdom. Walcott died on the Friday morning of March 17, 2017 at his home in St. Lucia after a period of poor health. He was 87.  He sang to us from the depths of the sea!

– Winsome Hudson (National Librarian/ CEO of the National Library of Jamaica)

 

We share below an excerpt from one of Walcott’s most beloved poems, “The Schooner Flight”.

 

 

My first friend was the sea. Now, is my last.
I stop talking now. I work, then I read,
cotching under a lantern hooked to the mast.
I try to forget what happiness was,
and when that don’t work, I study the stars.
Sometimes is just me, and the soft-scissored foam
as the deck turn white and the moon open
a cloud like a door, and the light over me
is a road in white moonlight taking me home.
Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea.

 

from  “The Schooner Flight” from Collected Poems 1948-1984