born January 23, 1930 on St. Lucia in the Carribean, is a poet, playwright, essayist and painter. Having studied French, Latin and Spanish at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, he earned his living as a teacher, journalist and theatre reviewer. He is the author of over twenty books of poetry and long epic poems. Aged eighteen, he self-published his first book, 25 Poems (1948). His most important books of poems include In a Green Night: Poems 1948-60 (1962), The Castaway and Other Poems (1965), The Gulf and Other Poems (1969), Sea Grapes (1976), The Fortunate Traveller (1981), Midsummer (1984), Omeros (1990), The Bounty (1997), Tiepolo’s Hound (2000) and Prodigal (2004). A new book, White Egrets, is forthcoming in 2010.
His dramatic oeuvre, as important as the poetry, comprises over twenty plays and the musical The Capeman (1997), co-authored with Paul Simon. Walcott worked as a manager at a number of theatres, among them those he founded himself, e.g. the Trinidad Theatre Workshop (1959) and the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (1981). He cooperated with Galt McDermott, the author of Hair. In 2008, at the London Globe, he directed The Burial at Thebes, an opera based on Seamus Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’s Antigone.
The descendant of slaves and a nomad between various races, cultures, languages and traditions, he examines in his work the conflicts and relations between the European, African, Asian and Latin American cultural heritage. He studies local myths and their place in universal culture, focusing on such issues as multilinguality and the search for identity in the multiplicity of cultural influences. His good friend Joseph Brodsky wrote about him thus: “The realm this poet comes from is a real genetic Babel … discovered by Columbus, colonized by the British, and immortalized by Walcott,” who has called himself “a mulatto of style.”
Walcott is the recipient of the most prestigious honours, including the Guinness Award for Poetry, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Cholmondeley Prize and the Welsh Arts Council International Writers Prize. He received a five year MacArthur Fellowship (1981) and the Queen’s Medal for Poetry (1988). In 1992 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Lately he has been dividing his time between his native St. Lucia, Trinidad, New York and Boston, where he taught literature, drama and creative writing at the university until 2007. From the autumn of 2009 he is going to be scholar in residence at the University of Alberta in Canada for three years.