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Walcott reading

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walcottNobel Laureate to give
reading at U of C

By Janice Lee

The Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Writers Program brings to the U of C the first Caribbean writer to win a Nobel Prize for literature. Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott visits Calgary as the 2007 Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Visiting Writer from Sept. 25 to Sept. 28.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have poet, dramatist and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott in Calgary,” says Rowland Smith, dean of the Faculty of Humanities. “Derek Walcott is the second Nobel prize winner to come to the U of C under the auspices of the Markin-Flanagan program. Wole Soyinka, who won the prize in 1986, came to the university in 2002.”

Walcott was born in 1930 in St. Lucia, in the West Indies’ Windward Islands. He published his first book of poems at the age of 18. After graduating from the University of the West Indies, he was awarded a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation to study American theatre and later formed the Trinidad Theatre Workshop.

“In all his collections of poetry and plays, Walcott is preoccupied—even obsessed—with individuals and communities coping in the interstices of cultures,” says Victor Ramraj, a professor in the Department of English, who presented the annual Humanities Nobel Lecture on Walcott.

“Walcott’s work draws on the dichotomies and dualities of his own complex cultural heritage: black and white, Caribbean and European, the colonial and imperial. Walcott is literally divided to the vein: both his grandfathers were Europeans—one English the other Dutch—and his grandmothers black West Indians,” says Ramraj.

“This notion of the divided self is central to Walcott’s poetic vision, and so is his response to this divided self, and his attempts to come to grips with it over the years in his numerous poems and plays.”

Walcott won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992. He has also won the Guinness Award for Poetry, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Cholmondeley Prize, the New Statesman’s Jock Campbell Award and the Welsh Arts Council International Writers Prize.

In 1981, he was a recipient of a five-year fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation and in 1988, was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Poetry. He is an Honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Walcott has authored 21 collections of poetry and more than 20 published plays, including: Omeros, an epic poem which reimagines Homer in a Caribbean setting; Dream on Monkey Mountain, winner of the 1971 Obie Award for distinguished foreign play; and Another Life, a book-length autobiographical poem. Walcott’s Collected Poems: 1948-1984 won the 1986 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. Selected Poems was published earlier this year.

Walcott gives a reading and commentary on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at The Rozsa Centre, Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall. The event is free and open to the public. No RSVP is necessary, but seating is limited. A book signing and reception will follow the reading.

For more information, contact 220-8177 or leej@ucalgary.ca, or visit
www.markinflanagan.com.