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Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Gerry Cambridge

In Crocodile Dandy, an essay about the Australian poet Les Murray, which amusingly begins with “the barbarians” approaching “the capital” with their rambunctious and superbly learned bards in tow, Derek Walcott provides a witty shorthand for the surprise of Empire at finding its former colonies' poets more au fait with its civilization's great art than it is itself. Walcott, as a son of the former colony of the British Empire, St. Lucia, is a perfect example—a poet from the margins, greatly learned in English literature, who has been widely feted both in Britain and America.

Article

David Barry Gaspar

poet, playwright, and literary and cultural critic, was born Derek Alton Walcott in the town of Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, then a British colony. It had experienced very slow Anglicization since its acquisition from the French after the Napoleonic wars. His parents, Warwick Walcott and Alix (maiden name unknown), were Methodists in a mostly Roman Catholic society. His mother was a schoolteacher and seamstress and, for many years, headmistress of the Methodist Infant School. She enjoyed acting and reciting. Walcott's father, an avid watercolorist and civil servant, died in 1931, leaving his wife to raise young Derek, his twin brother (Roderick Alton), and his sister (Pamela), who was two years older.Derek Walcott grew up in a house filled with books and other indications of the intellectual and artistic interests of his parents After completing elementary school under the ...

Article

Maria Cristina Fumagalli

was born in Castries, St. Lucia, on 23 January 1930 to Warwick Walcott and Alix Marlin Walcott Derek had a twin brother Roderick and an older sister Pam born two years earlier Although the majority of the St Lucian population were Catholic and spoke a French based Creole the Walcotts were Anglophone and part of the Methodist minority that nonetheless played a major role in the cultural policies of the island Walcott s father Warwick the son of a white Barbadian and a St Lucian woman of African descent died when Derek and Roderick were only 1 year old he was a bright and dependable civil servant and talented amateur artist fond of literature and classical music Warwick s wife Alix the daughter of a white Dutch colonial of St Maarten and an Afro Caribbean woman was a hardworking ambitious and determined woman who taught for years at St ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Derek Alton Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for literature, is widely regarded as one of the most important writers to emerge from the English-speaking Caribbean. While other Caribbean writers have responded to what Patricia Ismond has called the West Indian “crisis of historylessness,” brought about by the devastating effects of slavery and colonialism, by searching for roots, Walcott celebrates the possibilities of the “newness” of the region. The figure of Robinson Crusoe recurs in his poetry and plays, exemplifying both the predicament of Caribbean isolation and the potential that isolation offers to West Indians for creating a vocabulary uniquely suited to the complexity and richness of their world.

For Walcott, the artistic legacy of classical Western civilization is integral to this creative process. At an early age, he “fell madly in love with English.” Born in Castries, Saint Lucia he became familiar with the Western canon through ...