Poetry Friday: Elizabeth Alexander

h1 January 16th, 2009 by jules

Well, I’m excited about next week’s inauguration. How about you?

In celebration of poetry’s return to a presidential inauguration—this is the first time that poetry will be featured at the ceremony since Bill Clinton’s second swearing-in back in 1997—I’m featuring a poem by Elizabeth Alexander today. Alexander, Obama’s choice as the inaugural poet, is also an essayist, playwright, and teacher, born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C. She has published five books of poetry and currently teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Yale University. As you can read here, she’s “completely thrilled and deeply, deeply honored” to have been chosen.

“…Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there…”

That’s from Alexander’s “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe,” and the full version can be found here at her site. Also of interest: Alexander’s “The female seer will burn upon this pyre,” archived over at The Poetry Foundation.

Lastly, this is well-worth your time: The Poetry Foundation’s 11/25/08 episode of Poetry Off the Shelf discusses “poets in the age of Obama,” or “how the Derek Walcott-toting, June Jordan-quoting president will affect poets and poetry.” For approximately nine minutes (audio only), Curtis Fox discusses with Ms. Alexander how Obama will affect not only our current intellectual culture, but the world of poetry as well. Here’s the link.

As of Thursday night, I’m not sure who’s hosting the Poetry Friday round-up, but we’ll get it straight soon enough, I’m sure.

* * * * * * *

Friday-morning update: The round-up will be hosted by Karen Edmisten over at her blog with “the shockingly clever title.” Thanks for rounding-up, Karen!

Jone has some more thoughts on Ms. Alexander over at Check It Out.

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18 comments to “Poetry Friday: Elizabeth Alexander”

  1. Thank you for the great quotes and links, Jules! It’s great to have so much to celebrate!


  2. I’m excited too, Jules – and looking forward to the whole inauguration, although the poem will be something I’m particularly listening/looking for.


  3. So glad poetry will be part of this historic day!


  4. Thanks especially for the Off the Shelf link. Now I’ll be listening extra carefully to Obama’s speech for poetic references! It’s going to be a glorious, glorious moment in American history!


  5. Tuesday will be a great day for poets, a better day for America and I met Elizabeth Alexander a year or two ago so that makes me like one degree away from Obama in the Kevin Bacon game, right? Awesomeness, all around.


  6. Poets in the age of Obama.
    My god.
    Will wonders never cease…


  7. I’m just so happy to know that a poet reading at an inauguration will be actually, y’know, known to the guy being inaugurated. Talk about a breath of fresh air!

    The last line of “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe”:

    and are we not of interest to each other?

    If that single question isn’t a refutation of the values of the last eight years, I can’t think of another.

    Wonderful Poetry Friday selection and background, Jules, as always!


  8. Yes, everyone, Tuesday will be a great day in many ways.

    Dana, did you here Elizabeth speak or read her poetry or both?

    John, I love that last line of “Ars Poetica…” you pointed out. It’s,ultimately, why I read poetry anyway.


  9. She came to Cornell while I was still an MFA, so I heard her read and was in a couple small writing workshops that she facilitated. She’s extremely sharp.


  10. Hee! More than anything else, Poetry Friday has taught us all that poetry

    is not all love, love, love,
    and I’m sorry the dog died.

    No, indeed!


  11. Here’s to poetry and Tuesday!


  12. “are we not of interest to each other?” sums up 7-Imps approach to blogging, don’t you think? —both on 7 Kicks Sundays and every day that you feature artists who are amazing in their attention to the world and all that is in it.


  13. Dana, lucky you. Rock on.

    TadMack, yes! Maybe Poetry Friday as a whole can adopt that notion and, say, put it on a tee. Shoot, I’ve got two tees to get printed now (after yesterday’s post, I’ve got some Doophus-And-Proud tee shirts to make).

    Damn skippy, Sara! I couldn’t have articulated that myself, but I say amen to that. Me likey. That’s also a compliment to 7-Imp, so thanks! I mean, bringing people together? That’s what it’s all about….glad we’re evidently somewhat successful at it.


  14. Sure, I’m excited about Obama’s inauguration, but the part I really can’t wait for is Alexander’s poem!


  15. I am just about giddy with happiness over Obama. And guess what? He follows me on Twitter so eventually he is going to be reading Friday Poetry blogs! Yee Haw!!


  16. Hooray for poetry at the inauguration! What a hopeful time it will be for poetry and culture.


  17. I remember that Poetry Off the Shelf podcast. I found it enlightening and inspiring!

    And I remember when Curtis Fox asked Elizabeth Alexander about who should be Obama’s inaugural poet. It’s so sweet and so… poetic! that it ended up being her. :D


  18. My absolute love of poetry, and as an aspiring poet, I am delighted that a poetry reading has become a part of a president’s inauguration day!

    I will read Elizabeth Alexander with passion…


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