The Arkansas Testament

Derek Walcott

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

120 Pages



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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.

For several years, Derek Walcott has lived mainly in the 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.


Praise for The Arkansas Testament

"Incantatory, mesmerizing lyricism . . . Walcott has been described as a 20th-century man with an Elizabethan sense of language. Surely it's safe to conclude that he has taken what he has learned of imperial English as a second language and transformed it into verbal magic."—G. E. Murray, Chicago Tribune

"With his mystery of lyric, epic, dramatic and narrative genres, Walcott reminds me of Tinoretto: he is garish and bold, unequaled in catching observed particulars in the density of stop-time . . . He can describe a place in such a way that it has character, inwardness and mystery."—Mark Rudman, The New York Times Book Review

"Walcott 'the outsider' is the supreme poet of the Caribbean, because he has rejected the easy labeling that might have enabled him to make a peace with himself. The Arkansas Testament is witness to his ongoing struggle."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Walcott is honored by the language he writes in, and in turn he adds to its honor."—D. J. Enright, The New Republic

"Despite its title, this is another evocation of Walcott's St. Lucia, a Caribbean paradise of whelk-gatherers, sea grapes, and sugar cane where the poet reads 'silvery nouns' and deciphers 'scriptures of sand.' Walcott is again the consummate phrasemaker, describing a night 'with white rum on its breath' and a moon 'with a birthmark like Gorbachev's head.' He includes a sequence of poignant love poems and concludes with the title poem, a painful examination of the visiting black poet's role in an Arkansas where he 'was still nothing.' In language that is unfailingly fresh and inventive, Walcott reminds us in every poem that a largely inexperienced world exists just "outside the door.'"—Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Derek Walcott

  • Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia in 1930. His Collected Poems: 1948-1984 was published in 1986, and his subsequent works include Omeros, The Bounty, and Tiepolo's Hound. Walcott received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.

  • Derek Walcott © Danielle Devaux /