Derek Walcott’s poem, “Forty Acres: A Poem for Barack Obama,” uses many literary tools to enrich the language and imagery of the celebration of the election of America’s first Black President. One of the literary tools that Walcott uses to express the importance of Barack Obama as a symbol of the African American people is by using repetition of the word “emblem.” This repetitive use of “emblem” advances the position Walcott takes that President Obama symbolizes the advancement of all Black people. Another literary tool that Walcott uses efficiently is the oxymoron of “impossible prophecy” (line 3). This impossible of this phrase denotes something that shall never come to pass while prophecy denotes something that has been foretold to happen. Thus, the oxymoron in this poem represents what people thought would never happen: an African American being elected to the Presidency. However, African Americans have been hoping and praying for a shift in racial perception to come where there would be the opportunity for a Black man to become President. Walcott advances his language in his poem through similes, also. He writes, “a crowd/ dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,” (lines 3-4). Walcott could have simply said the crowd divided; this simile shows us more clearly the pace and power in which the crowd divided. Another simile that Walcott uses is “till the land lies open like a flag” (line 19). Here Walcott compares the land to a flag. Walcott’s use of a simile here is much more thought provoking than if he had just said that the land lay open or clear. The symbol of a flag brings thoughts of the nation as a whole and the history of the United States.
Overall, this poem is filled with literary tools that help to invoke images and allusions in the readers’ minds.