Poet Derek Walcott, here in Italy in 2008, was called a "true son" of St. Lucia.

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Derek Walcott's epic poem "Omeros" was his most lauded work

Nobel committee: "West Indian culture has found its great poet" in Walcott

CNN  — 

Derek Walcott, the Caribbean poet and playwright who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for literature, died Friday.

A native of St. Lucia, Walcott was 87. His publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, said he died after a lengthy illness.

“In him, West Indian culture has found its great poet,” the Nobel Prize committee said in a statement at the time it honored him.

The committee described Walcott’s verse as “melodious and sensitive,” recognizing him “for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.”

The news of his death prompted mourning on social media and in his home of St. Lucia.

“We’re saddened to hear of the passing of Derek Walcott (1930-2017),” Poets.org said on Twitter.

Western canon and Island influences

The Poetry Foundation, in a capsule biography, said Walcott’s work resonated with “Western canon and Island influences, sometimes even shifting between Caribbean patois and English, and often addressing his English and West Indian ancestry.”

His much-lauded epic poem was “Omeros,” which the foundation bio called a “reimagining” of “the Trojan War as a Caribbean fisherman’s fight.”

“This is a work of incomparable ambitiousness,” the Nobel committee said of the 1990 poem.

The Cultural Development Foundation of St. Lucia said family and friends were with Walcott when he died and called him a “true son” of the island nation.

“He was very vocal about the island’s culture and heritage and its preservation and his love for Saint Lucia and the Caribbean was evident in his numerous mentions of ‘home’ in his work,” the foundation said.

Walcott self-published his first book, “25 Poems,” when he was 18, it said.

Other works included “Three Plays: The Last Carnival; Beef, No Chicken and a Branch of the Blue Nile” (1969),” Dream on Monkey Mountain and Other Plays” (1970), “The Joker of Seville and O Babylon!” (1978), “Remembrance and Pantomime” (1980), “The Isle Is Full of Noises” (1982) and “The Odyssey: A Stage Version” (1992).

Asked in a 2007 National Public Radio interview about how he grew to love poetry, Walcott said he was inspired by his father, who wrote poetry, encouraged by his mother and captivated by his land.

“But also the country that I was coming from, the island I was in, hadn’t been written about, really. So I felt that I virtually had it all to myself, including the language that was spoken there, which was a French Creole, and a landscape that was not recorded, really. And a people. So it was a tremendous privilege to want to record all of that,” he said.

CNN’s Jason Hanna and Mallory Gafas contributed to this report.