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LIVE from the NYPL: Derek Walcott and Glyn Maxwell Poetry and Power


April 26, 2005

Dramatist and poet Derek Walcott, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, discusses translation and the postcolonial mind with one of Walcott's former students, Glyn Maxwell, a writer and the poetry editor of The New Republic.

Derek Walcott was born in 1930 in the town of Castries in Saint Lucia, one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. The experience of growing up on the isolated volcanic island, an ex-British colony, has had a strong influence on Walcott's life and work. After studying at St. Mary's College in his native island and at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, Walcott moved in 1953 to Trinidad, where he has worked as a theatre and art critic. At the age of 18, he made his debut with 25 Poems, but his breakthrough came with the collection of poems, In a Green Night (1962). In 1959, he founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop which produced many of his early plays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 "for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment." His most recent book-length poem: The Prodigal: A poem, was published in 2004. The work was inspired by the death of Derek's twin brother, Roderick Walcott, at the age of 71.

Glyn Maxwell was born in 1962 in Welwyn Garden City, England. He read English at Oxford University and won a scholarship to Boston University where he studied on the poetry and drama courses taught by Derek Walcott. He moved to the USA in 1996, teaching first at Amherst College, Massachusetts, then at Columbia University and The New School in New York City. In 1997 he was awarded the E. M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was appointed Poetry Editor at the New Republic in 2001, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His upcoming book, The Sugar Mile, is written in the extended verse narrative and juxtaposes two cities on the brink of irrevocable change. The Sugar Mile begins when the poet steps into an uptown Manhattan bar a few days before September 11, 2001.

This event is presented in conjunction with Poets House.