Derek Walcott: A Life in Poetry

Derek Walcott

Poet Derek Walcott, 77, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Susan P. Alonso hide caption

itoggle caption Susan P. Alonso

Derek Walcott has spent a lifetime imbibing the rhythms of St. Lucia.

The Nobel laureate has always looked to his native island for inspiration as a poet, playwright and painter.

Walcott, 77, has published 13 collections of poetry, some of them epic in length.

A new book, Selected Poems, collects his work from 1962 to 2004.

Walcott speaks with Jacki Lyden about his years spent as a "fortunate traveler," when he split his time between Boston, New York, Europe and at home in the West Indies.

Sea Grapes

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That sail which leans on light,

tired of islands,

a schooner beating up the Caribbean

for home, could be Odysseus,

home-bound on the Aegean;

that father and husband's

longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is

like the adulterer hearing Nausicaa's name

in every gull's outcry.

This brings nobody peace. The ancient war

between obsession and responsibility

will never finish and has been the same

for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore

now wriggling on his sandals to walk home,

since Troy sighed its last flame,

and the blind giant's boulder heaved the trough

from whose groundswell the great hexameters come

to the conclusions of exhausted surf.

The classics can console. But not enough.

"Sea Grapes" from Selected Poems by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 2007 by Derek Walcott. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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Selected Poems

by Derek Walcott and Edward Baugh

Hardcover, 307 pages | purchase

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