St. Lucian-born Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott has been awarded the US$10,000 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The award was announced on Saturday at the inaugural Bocas Lit Fest held in Trinidad & Tobago.
Walcott was cited by the judges for his “seemingly effortless flow of language and imagery” despite his stated premonitions of the loss of poetic power and inspiration.
“Walcott is still writing great poetry, lovely cadences, beautiful images,” the judges said of his work White Egrets, a book-length poetry collection divided into separate poems and hailed as an exploration of bereavement and grief in one’s advanced years. The judges described it as “a book that tells of a period of life more usually talked at and talked about than heard from or listened to, which makes it a very important work.”
White Egrets is Walcott’s 14th book of poems. He has also published eight collections of plays and a book of essays. Extracts of the winning collection were featured in two parts in the Trinidad Express in April
Walcott who is in Europe working on a new theatre production, was unable to attend the award ceremony. His daughter, Mrs Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, who is also a writer, accepted the OCM Bocas Prize cheque and trophy on his behalf.
Walcott along with Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat and Tiphanie Yanique author of the debut short fiction collection How to Escape a Leper Colony, were finalists for the Caribbean’s first major literary award. Yanique who had earlier won the fiction category was in Trinidad for the presentation. Danticat, the winner of the non-fiction category for Create Dangerously: the immigrant artist at work, was unable to attend. Walcott captured the overall prize. This is his second major award this year. In January he was awarded the TS Elliot Prize for poetry for White Egrets.