“New World Map” by Derek Walcott

This article is also available in: Italiano

Without a shadow of a doubt the greatest poet in Caribbean history. Derek Walcott in “Map of the New World” places this area on the map of world poetry, showing an identity that “does not exist or is a nation”.

New world map

“I am nobody or I am a nation”: this verse can be used as an epigraph for all of Walcott’s work. Of which it can be said, first of all, that it offers us the highest form, today, of the English language – perhaps also because it comes from those places where “the sun, tired of the empire, sets”, from an immense marine periphery, the Caribbean , where that sun, setting, «brings a crucible of races and cultures to incandescence. Walcott is neither a traditionalist nor a “modernist”.

derek walcott
“I’m just a red nigger who love the sea,
I had a sound colonial education,
I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation,”

None of the available “isms” and the “hysts” that follow from them fit. It does not belong to any “school”: there are not many in the Caribbean, except for those of fish. It would be tempting to call him a metaphysical realist, but realism is by definition metaphysical, just as the reverse is true. Besides, it’s a label that would taste too prose. Walcott can be naturalist, expressionist, surrealist, imagist, hermetic, confessional – by choice. He simply absorbed all the stylistic idioms the North could offer the way the whales absorb the plankton or a brush absorbs the palette: now he walks with his legs, and with great strides ». (Iosif Aleksandrovič Brodskij)

The Caribbean poet

The presentation of the Nobel Prize Iosif Brodskij would be enough to understand how much this poet was able to differentiate himself from the others, bringing to the world of poetry a new identity: the Caribbean one. The poems of Derek Walcott (also a Nobel prize in “92) tell of a hybrid universe, the result of the union of thousands of different peoples, who have come to these islands with the most disparate intentions. Not only British and African, the Caribbean has been since before Columbus a place where many sought refuge from the mainland, creating a population so varied from being beyond the classic nationalities and ethnic groups.


In “Map of the New World”, Derek Walcott tries to give a new location to this area and this people, always observed as the “bastard part” of humanity, but able to show concepts that only these happy islands can show us An incredible English text that combines concepts of extraordinary depth and beauty with a Shakespearean staging.

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