Blatant Bibliophile Blog

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Meet Inaugural Poet Elizabeth Alexander

Posted by blatantbibliophiles on January 20, 2009

 http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/245

As a Blatant Bibliophile, you may also be a poetry fan, and so you might be wondering about the poem from today’s inauguration. The poem was written and presented by Elizabeth Alexander, who is a multi-talented poet, essayist, teacher, and playwright. Ms. Alexander was born in New York and raised in Washington, D.C. She earned her Ph. D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and also holds degrees from Yale and Boston Universities.  One of Ms. Alexander’s five books of poetry, American Sublime, was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists and was an American Library Association Notable Book. She is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship which is awarded for work that contributes to improving race relations. Currently, Ms. Alexander is on the faculty of Yale University.  You can visit her website or read a biography and some of her work at the website of  The Academy of American Poets. Here is the transcript of her poem courtesy of The New York Times as provided by CQ transcriptions:

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

2 Responses to “Meet Inaugural Poet Elizabeth Alexander”

  1. For those interested, I offer a reading and exploration of the poem’s meaning in a “http://danielklotz.com/2009/01/22/meaning-of-elizabeth-alexanders-inaugural-poem/” new blog entry.

  2. blatantbibliophiles said

    Thanks, Daniel. Be sure to check this out, Bibliophiles. Very interesting blog. http://danielklotz.com/2009/01/22/meaning-of-elizabeth-alexanders-inaugural-poem/

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