Sunday, February 8, 2009
A Poem for Barack Obama
Walcott’s A Poem for Barack Obama uses literary techniques such as punctuation, imagery, and oxymoron to present a theme of blacks’ perseverance through adversity encompassing the success of President Obama. The poet uses the character of a “young Negro” to embody the negative experiences of blacks in the United States that stem from slavery and institutionalized racism. Walcott states, “Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving of a young Negro…, an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed, parting for their president”. In the first line Walcott uses commas to illuminate the image of the ‘young Negro’ that personifies the accomplishments of blacks and President Obama, despite the adverse circumstances that they have faced. The diction Walcott uses, such as ‘turmoil’ and ‘one emblem”, emphasize that the Young Negro embodies the tumultuous past and progressive future for blacks. The oxymoron, “impossible prophecy” points toward the selection of a black president in America and how the racial status quo of America’s history caused many to doubt the possibility of such a phenomena. Prophecy denotes that an event will come to pass. To refer to a prophecy as impossible emphasizes that America’s laws and social norms worked to keep such an event as the selection of a black president from occurring, but despite such desperate social conduct President Obama becomes the first black president. The simile, “a crowd dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed, parting for their president” alludes to America’s history of slavery and disenfranchising of blacks and then refers to contemporary times that hold the possibilities for blacks to attain any position despite the racial hierarchy of America. Walcott’s poem presents America’s history of slavery and its present of opportunity at the same time through the “Young Negro”. The poem presents the experiences of those traditionally marginalized and makes it clear that much has changed in America as a result of individuals’ continual quest for equity despite the obstacles in their path.