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Jamaican Literary Giant Dies In New York

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Distinguished Jamaican poet, Louis Simpson, 1964 Pulitzer Prize winner, Columbia University literary luminary and the author of over eighteen mostly critically acclaimed books of poetry died a few days ago in Long Island.

Simpson’s dismal portrayal of the American temperament in one of his early collections of poetry At the End of the Open Road won him the Pulitzer Prize. Some of his other outstanding works include Searching for the Ox, North of Jamaica and In The Room we Share.

Simpson was born in 1923 in Kingston, attended Munro College in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. He migrated to the United States and studied at Columbia University and later, at the Universit√© de Paris in France. He grew up with his parents in the then fashionable upper middle-class Cross Roads. His father was a prominent attorney and brother to Kingston’s former mayor ‘Corkfoot’ Simpson, and his mother was a Russian-born silent film actress. Louis was a creative disciple of the late Edna Manley, wife of national hero Norman Manley in the late 30s and early 40s.

After migrating to New York, World War 11 dominated his energies and he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division for two years. But he later enjoyed an illustrious writing and teaching career, lecturing in the English departments at University of California, Columbia University and State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was at one point a review critic for the New York Times, and locally, he contributed to the Gleaner and Public Opinion.

Simpson was never a frequent flyer to Jamaica, but he visited Kingston in May 1991 with his wife and delivered a lecture at the former Creative Arts Centre at the University of the West Indies, Mona as part of the school’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Several years later, he read at the Calabash Literary Festival at Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth.

Simpson had been ailing with Alzheimer’s disease for some time. He is survived by his daughter Ann and sons Matthew and Anthony.

by Dave Rodney

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