Barack Obama reading poetry by Derek Walcott

The St.Lucian poet Derek Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature. Walcott, is often described as the West Indies' greatest writer and intellectual. He was born in St Lucia in 1930 and is best known for his epic poem Omeros, a reworking of the story of the Odyssey in a 20th century Caribbean setting. Derek Walcott writes exclusively for The Times (on November 5th) to mark the election of Barack Obama as President.

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving —

a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,

an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd

dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,

parting for their president: a field of snow-flecked

cotton

forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens

that the young ploughman ignores for his unforgotten

cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch, is

a tense

court of bespectacled owls and, on the field's

receding rim —

a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him.

The small plough continues on this lined page

beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado's

black vengeance,

and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins,

heart, muscles, tendons,

till the land lies open like a flag as dawn's sure

light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower.

Then on November 7th, three days after winning the presidential election, Barack Obama was spotted in Chicago carrying a book of poems by Derek Walcott, the St.Lucian Nobel laureate. A 500-page volume, Collected Poems 1948-1984, is one of 20 collections by Derek Walcott, theatre director and playwright, who has also written more than 20 plays.

Barack Obama still has time for a little poetry

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