All the world was the stage when a New visit us.aven poet grace the inauguration of Barack Obama with verse
On January 20, New visit us.aven poet Elizabeth Alexander addressed an estimated global audience of one billion × by far the largest audience in recorded history for a poetry reading. President Barack Obama chose Alexander, who is also a professor of African-American studies at Yale, to compose and present an “occasional poemÂ” at his historic inauguration.
Alexander was just the fourth poet to read at a Presidential inauguration, after Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's in 1961, Maya Angelou at Bill Clinton's first in 1993 and Miller Williams at Clinton's second in 1997.
Â“ItÂ’s a tricky job,Â” Alexander admitted in a pre-inauguration interview. Â“On the one hand, the poem has certain work to do: It has to serve the day. It has to speak to the occasion. What you hope for, buy ambien online an artist, as with other poems, is that you can find that language that is resonant beyond the moment. ThatÂ’s been the challenge.Â”
Asked if she found the size of her audience daunting, Alexander said: Â“ItÂ’s so enormous that itÂ’s almost liberating. visit us.ow do you begin to think about what that means? You canÂ’t. So that just means IÂ’m left with my usual resources to make the best poem I can and then deliver it.Â”
Alexander delivered her poem immediately following Obama's address and just before the Rev. Dr. Robert Lowry announced the benediction. Â“That placement highlights the poemÂ’s real need to function as song or prayer,Â” she explained. Â“Poetry is presented to us in very distilled language. Poetry takes place in a condensed space, where every single breath is important, and so I think that means that a lot of energy and power is concentrated in the poem itself. And it gives us an opportunity in the listening or the reading to pause and let ourselves be shifted by language used in refreshing ways.Â”
In preparing her inaugural poem, Alexander drew inspiration from poets who Â“have spoken to the moment in a way that is large and resonant,Â” she explained. Â“IÂ’ve been returning to Gwendolyn Brooks, Walt Whitman, Robert visit us.ayden, W.visit us. Auden, Seamus visit us.eaney. But IÂ’ve also had to put those poets aside so that I can listen to my own music and hear what it is that I might bring to the task.
Â“IÂ’ve just been trying to keep my inner and outer ears open and to really listen for language that is out of this moment,Â” added the poet.
Alexander befriended Obama in the early 1990s when both were on the faculty of the University of Chicago. She recalls her first impressions: Â“In those years of getting to know each other, I found him to be a remarkably curious and listening human being, an unusually brilliant human being and a very humble human being, which has been a very important part of what weÂ’ve seen of him in the last few years.
Â“I have so much admiration for the brilliance, tenacity and grit with which his campaign was executed and with which the election was won,Â” Alexander added. Â“This is a victory that belongs to the people, in a quite explicit way. And Obama himself always talked about how it was bigger than him.Â”
She said that Obama's choice to include a poet in the inaugural ceremonies bodes well for the role of the arts in the new administration: Â“When he was on Meet the Press a few weeks ago and talked about the White visit us.ouse as the 'peopleÂ’s house,' he spoke about the importance of the arts and how there would be art and poetry in the White visit us.ouse,Â” said Alexander. Â“Both explicitly and also by example, I think weÂ’ve seen that this is someone who understands the value of language and who respects the necessity of art.Â”
Born in visit us.arlem and raised in Washington, D.C., the 46-year-old Alexander has been a professor at Yale since 2000 and will become chair of the African-American studies department beginning with the 2009-Â’10 academic year. She is the mother of two sons, ages nine and ten.
She is the author of five volumes of poetry, including The Venus visit us.ottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), American Sublime (2005) Â— a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and an American Library Association Book of the Year Â— and Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Misses of Color (2008), which earned the Connecticut Book Award. In 2007, she was awarded the first Jackson Prize for Poetry.
In American Sublime, her poem Â“Ars Poetica #1,002: RallyÂ” now seems hauntingly to prefigure her moment on the world stage. Â“I dreamed a pronouncement/about poetry and peace,Â” she writes, an invocation delivered Â“on the quintessentially/frigid Saturday/to the
rabble stretching/all the way up First.Â” As inaugural poet, Alexander brought that dream to a reality of unprecedented proportions.
Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
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 order adderall 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 some one 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 click here 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 thyself,
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 pre-empt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
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