Monday, 30 January 2012

Christian Campbell Delivers Prestigious Walcott Lecture

Though a small island in the Caribbean with a population of a mere 174,000, St. Lucia has more Nobel Laureates (two) per capita than any other country in the rest of the world. The nation, rightfully proud of this fact, celebrates Nobel Laureate Week once a week.

Following in the footsteps of respected figures such as the late Rex Nettleford and Nobel Laureate Wole Solyinka, Christian Campbell delivered this year’s Derek Walcott Lecture on 24th January. Campbell is both a Peepal Tree poet (a matter all of us in the office are very proud of!) and an English professor at the University of Toronto.

“This is really an amazing opportunity for me,” said Campbell.

The late Arthur Lewis was the island's first Nobel Laureate, receiving the award in economics in 1979. Literary heavyweight Derek Walcott was awarded the Nobel Laureate in Literature later in 1992. Strangely enough, both Laureates were born on the same day: 23rd January.

“Since their living Nobel Laureate is a poet, there is serious respect for poetry in that country,” said Campbell, who himself has serious respect and admiration for Walcott.

Walcott, who turns 82 this year, has previously donated many of his papers to the University of Toronto.

Campbell first visited St. Lucia while a student of Oxford University, here in the UK, seeking to interview the acclaimed Caribbean poet, whom he considers an inspiration.

Campbell's speech, titled Caribbean Poetry and Freedom, was “about commemoration as a critical project: it’s an occasion to reflect, re-examine and revisit certain kinds of ideas and events that make the present possible.”

“I owe so much to his courage, devotion and generosity, as so many of the poets in the world do.”

Campbell, who admits poetry doesn't have a high profile in Canada, also cheered St. Lucia for providing “an opportunity to celebrate the significance of poetry and the way it is life-giving.”

He said, “Think about all the things it teaches us that we may take for granted.”

Christian Campbell won the 2010 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the 2010 Forward Prize for his debut collection, Running the Dusk.

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