Monday, January 26, 2009

Forty Acres: “an enraving/an emblem”

Derek Walcott’s Forty Acres: A Poem for Barack Obama is a poetic retelling of Obama’s journey to becoming the 44th President of the United States. Phrases such as “out of the turmoil” and “emblem of impossible prophecy” reflect Walcott’s effort to carefully craft the story of the poem to parallel Obama’s story. The metaphor in the poem is strong, not just because of the thought provoking comparisons, but also in the beautiful language through which they are presented. While Walcott makes obvious metaphors (for example, he refers to President Bush as a “gesticulating scarecrow” and Obama as a “sower”), the more subtle, less politically charged metaphors seem to have most of the power in the poem. The conclusion particularly highlights this aspect of Walcott’s work: “feels the change in his veins…till the land lies open like a flag as dawn’s sure/ light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower.” The phrase “open like a flag” has several powerful affects on the reader. First and foremost, the metaphor provokes a beautiful image. The connotation of that image relates to the “change in his veins;” the change being that America is as open for change as Obama is ready to be that change. The image also implies a sense of vulnerably (“the land lies open like a flag”), which is certainly a part of change. However, Walcott immediately reinforces that America is ready for this change; “dawns sure light streaks the field and furrow.” Ultimately, Forty Acres is the type of poem that will be lifted and upheld as a piece of art, perhaps “an enraving/an emblem,” that resembles a monumental moment in the history of human culture.

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