© Image by Chris Felver

Derek Walcott

(b. 1930)

What's poetry, if it's worth its salt, / but a phrase men can pass from hand to mouth? Derek Walcott - from 'Forest of Europe'

Share this page

Share this page Bookmark and Share


These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

! Missing Player !
To listen to the Archive's recordings, software called Adobe Flash Player (version 10) needs to be installed on your computer and you need to enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Adobe Flash Player can be downloaded, free of charge, here.


  • The Caribbean Poetry Project
    This pioneering collaboration between the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, the Centre for Commonwealth Education and the University of the West Indies aims to help teachers develop their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of Caribbean poetry, and to extend knowledge, understanding and creative engagement with Caribbean poetry among secondary-school students.

Select bibliography

  • In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960, Cape 1962
  • Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1964
  • The Castaway and Other Poems, Cape 1965
  • The Gulf and Other Poems, Cape 1969
  • Dream on Monkey Mountain And Other Plays, Cape 1972
  • Another Life, Cape 1973
  • Sea Grapes, Cape 1976
  • The Joker of Seville; and O Babylon!: Two Plays, Cape 1979
  • The Star-Apple Kingdom, Cape 1980
  • Selected Poetry (with Wayne Brown), Heinemann 1981
  • The Fortunate Traveller, Faber and Faber 1982
  • Midsummer, Faber and Faber 1984
  • Plays for Today (with Dennis Scott and Errol Hill), Longman 1985
  • The Arkansas Testament, Faber and Faber 1988
  • Three Plays, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1988
  • Omeros, Faber and Faber 1990
  • Collected Poems 1948-1984, Faber and Faber 1992
  • Poems 1965-80, Cape 1992
  • The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory - The Nobel Lecture, Faber and Faber 1993
  • The Odyssey: A Stage Version, Faber and Faber 1993
  • Homage to Robert Frost: Essays on Poetry (with Joseph Brodsky and Seamus Heaney), Faber and Faber 1997
  • The Bounty, Faber and Faber 1997
  • What the Twilight Says: Essays, Faber and Faber 1998
  • Tiepolo's Hound, Faber and Faber 2001
  • The Prodigal, Faber and Faber 2006
  • Derek Walcott Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive 2008
  • Selected Poems, Faber and Faber 2009
  • White Egrets, Faber and Faber, 2010.
Derek Walcott (b. 1930) was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1992, two years after the publication of his most ambitious and celebrated work to date, Omeros, an epic poem which draws on the Homeric tradition and relocates it in the voices and lives of the people of the Caribbean. His own experience of living in two cultures has been a powerful influence on his work; he grew up on the relatively isolated island of Saint Lucia, moved to Trinidad in his twenties, and now spends much of his time in the USA, where he teaches literature and creative writing at Boston University. This duality has brought a richness to his writing: he has deep roots in his native culture and at the same time takes possession of his rightful place within the English-speaking literary tradition. As Sean O'Brien has said, "Walcott is faithful to his origins while speaking to the world".

Much of Walcott's work reaches out for an unattainable paradise or utopia which finds its physical parallel in the Caribbean of his childhood. Recurring themes of loss, survival and remembrance are present in 'Sea Canes', an attempt to resurrect the dead through memory, which can be strong and lasting enough to possess "the rational radiance of stone". The desire is to keep faith with reality, to reconstruct the past and its people "as they were, / with faults and all". 'Sea Grapes', the title poem of Walcott's 1976 collection, articulates personal pain and melancholy through an engagement with history and myth; the longing for home and the need for adventure are part of an "ancient war" which will be part of the human condition forever. 'Blues' is situated in a very different place: the America of Walcott's exile, a bewildering place where festival celebrations share the streets with a casual, recreational violence.

There is a resonance and musicality to Walcott's voice which embodies both the formal complexity and sophistication of the work and its intimacy. While he is best known for his poetry Walcott is also a prolific writer for the stage and for musical theatre, and perhaps it is these disciplines which bring to his reading a sense of drama and a skilful use of silence.

With over twenty collections spanning four decades, Walcott is a towering and influential presence in contemporary poetry. He is an honorary member of the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters, and was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1988. His collection 'White Egrets' won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Prize.

This recording was made on the 5th June, 2007 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1969 Cholmondeley Award

1988 Queens Gold Medal for Poetry

1990 Arts Council of Wales International Writers Prize

1992 Nobel Prize for Literature

T S Eliot Prize 2010

Search for a poem or a poet:

My Archive

Create lists of your favourite poems and poets and share them with friends.

Browse all poets by name

View all poets

Browse all poems by title

View all poems

Glossary of poetic terms

View full glossary
Historic recordings Hear famous voices from poetry's past.

View all historic recordings
Support The Poetry Archive The Poetry Archive depends on donations from public bodies and private individuals. Find out how you can contribute to the work of the Archive.