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September 03 , 2007

The Arkansas Testament


Derek Walcott's eighth collection of poems, The Arkansas Testament, is divided into two parts – "Here," verse evoking the poet's native Caribbean, and "Elsewhere." It opens with six poems in quatrains whose memorable, compact lines further Walcott's continuous effort to crystallize images of the Caribbean landscape and people.

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The three plays in this collection form a triptych – the central play, a farce, is flanked by two dramas. Together they span the last four decades of Trinidad's social and political history, beginning, in The Last Carnival, with the colonial life-style of a French Creole family faced with the emergence of the Black Power movement, and…

For several years, Derek Walcott has lived mainly in the United States. "The Arkansas Testament," one of the book's long poems, is a powerful confrontation of changing allegiances. The poem's crisis is the taking on of an extra history, one that challenges unquestioning devotion.

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