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Nobel Prize an Island Bard

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A native-born Caribbean author had never won the Nobel Prize in Literature — until last week, when the Swedish Academy bestowed the $1.2 million laurel on poet Derek Walcott. The choice had some of the earmarks of political correctness: of mixed ancestry (African, Dutch, English), Walcott was born 62 years ago on St. Lucia in what was then the British West Indies.

But the implication is misleading. Walcott, who teaches at Boston University, has long been regarded as one of the finest living poets in English; he adapted his colonial overseers’ language to non-English subjects and unfamiliar landscapes. His 10 volumes of poetry — especially the epic- scale Omeros (1990) — give an exotic tropical world the rhythms of universality. (See related story on page 65.)

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