Home Page > News Item > Nobel laureate, playwright, and poet Derek Walcott dies today aged 87

17 March 2017

It is with great sadness that PEN International received the news of Nobel laureate, playwright, & poet Derek Walcott’s death earlier today. Statements from PEN President Jennifer Clement and Executive Director Carles Torner are below.

‘It is a moment for sadness and pause when you hear of the death of a writer whose work has had such a deep impact on contemporary literature. Over the years, Derek Walcott joined several PEN International statements and petitions, and read at one of our earliest FreeTheWord events. We will always be honoured to have had him as part of our community, and to have been touched by his great skill, his commanding voice, and his kinship. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time, and within our membership we will read, remember, and celebrate his life and work.’

– Jennifer Clement, President, PEN International

‘Derek Walcott trained as a painter. I am always reminded of this when I return to his poetry: lush and lyrical, his pen is as a brush, creating strokes that flow image to image, carrying us on the breath of it. He was without doubt a master craftsman, a poet who fused sound and image seamlessly. Who else would talk of the ‘ceaseless creasing of the morning sea’ and ‘the moon’s blank tambourine/and the drizzle’s guitars’ (from ‘[the day with all its pain ahead is yours]’)? Somehow the world – in all its sensory variation – is both pinned down and moving, and in its transience it carries us along too.

That said, Walcott’s writing does not allow for passivity. Walcott calls us in and spits us out, often juxtaposing ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ in ways that force the reader to be part of the work too. Through it, we question identity, emotion, and history, called into awareness of the Caribbean heritage he writes from and the resonance of Caribbean landscape: its sounds and its music in particular.’

– Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International

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