Derek Walcott, acclaimed Caribbean author, writes to make sense of the legacy of deep colonial damage. Born in 1930 in the island of St. Lucia, Walcott has a melancholic relationship with Caribbean history which shapes the way he carefully composes within “The Sea is History.” Walcott’s application of Biblical allusions seeks to revise and restore Caribbean identity.
Born on the island a former British colony in the West Indies, established poet and playwright Derek Walcott developed a burning passion for writing as a young man. His family descended from a line of slaves in the West Indies, and the legacy of slavery is a common theme threaded throughout his work. Both mother and father were schoolteachers and strongly supported Walcott’s love of reading. In the poem “Midsummer” he wrote: “Forty years gone, in my island childhood, I felt that the gift of poetry had made me one of the chosen, that all experience was kindling to the fire of the Muse (Poetry Foundation, 1).” This early vocational recognition enthused Walcott and at the age of fourteen he published his first poem in the local newspaper. By 19, Walcott had self-published his two first collections, 25 Poems (1948) and Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos (1949), which he distributed himself on street corners. Continuing as a prolific poet, Walcott penetrated the literary world with his publication of the collection In a Green Night: Poems 1948-1960 (1962), “a book which celebrates the Caribbean and its history as well as investigates the scars of colonialism and post-colonialism” (Poetry Foundation, 1). This book closely parallels with the theme of “The Sea is History” and is perhaps one of the first publications that inspired a long and distinguished career seeking to restore a Caribbean identity.
Walcott became the first Caribbean writer to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992 as the committee depicted his work as “a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment” (“Derek Walcott”, 2). He remarks of the Caribbean that “what we were deprived of was also our privilege. There was a great joy in making a world that so far, up to then, had been undefined... My generation of West Indian writers has felt such a powerful elation at having the privilege of writing about places and people for the first time and, simultaneously, having behind them the tradition of knowing how well it can be done—by a Defoe, a Dickens, a Richardson” (Poets,1 ). Walcott absolutely classifies himself as a Caribbean writer, a pioneer, helping to make sense of the legacy of deep, fragmented, colonial damage.
As many Caribbean writers possess, Walcott shares the idea that in regards to the Caribbean people there needs to be an individual claim to language rather than that of the colonizer’s, the multiple social, cultural, and economic problems colonialism left in the islands. For this reason, it is important to understand a brief background...