Caribbean artists remember poet Derek Walcott


Elizabeth Flock (PBS) writes about how Caribbean artists remember and render tributes to the late poet Derek Walcott. She gathers poignant recollections by photographer Ruddy Roye and other writers/poets such as Kwame Dawes, Ishion Hutchinson, and Patrick Sylvain. I was particularly struck by poems written by Dawes and Roye after Walcott’s death. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

Since Nobel laureate and Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott died Friday, remembrances have flooded in for the complicated but mighty writer, who captured the lush beauty of the Caribbean and the brutality of its colonial history.

We’ve collected several of these tributes, from a Caribbean street photographer, poets and other writers. Many pointed to the importance of one Walcott poem, “The Sea is History,” which argues that the history of the Caribbean cannot be stolen, because it is in the sea. The landscape was often at the center of Walcott’s work.

Read those remembrances — along with “The Sea is History”– below. These comments have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

From Ruddy Roye, a Jamaican street photographer whose work often focuses on the lives of the forgotten — the “raw and gritty lives,” he says — especially those of home:

“I believe when Caribbean people talk about Walcott, we talk about him under the stars after a night at the club. We sit on our cars or against the nightclub walls reminiscing about how we felt in literature class after reading one of his poems.

We would talk about being imbued with an identity solely scraped up out of the ashes of mediocre lives. In his poetry, his grandiose sentences, Walcott was able to unlock feelings of shame that we felt about being descendants of slaves. His writings were able to inspire the best in many, especially his fellow artists who reached for the spaces to sculpt our own personalities. Caribbean people enjoy feeling like they are from the Caribbean. And Walcott’s poetry made us feel like we belonged — that we were not shaped by the hands of our colonizers but architects of our own stories.

My favorite poem by him is “A Far Cry From Africa.” The culture that Derek Walcott helped to foster in the Caribbean (one of pride, rooted in the voices of our ancestors) is something that continues to inform my photography. I look at how black images have been defined in the past and hope that my work continues to redefine how we, the “other” here and around the globe, see black folks.” [. . .]

For full article, see

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