Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Meet Elizabeth Alexander, Inaugural Poet. Today she answered the call of President Barak Obama to grace his swearing in ceremony with a poem. Her poem, titled Praise Song For The Day is a poem of masterfully controlled free verse form. Alexander began reminding us how we pass each other, look or do not look at each other. She lamented: "all about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din." She kept to the topic of change, what is needed. "Say it plain, that many have died for this day," she said and she urged us to go beyond merely what's right to choose love, "love that casts a widening pool of light."
Elizabeth Alexander is only the fourth poet to read at an inauguration, following Robert Frost in 1961, Maya Angelou in 1993 and Miller Williams in 1997.
The New York Times Web Site has posted a copy of the text, however the poet's line breaks have not been preserved. Also, I note that the last line as reported by NYT is not as read to the world by the poet. Graywolf Press will publish a chapbook of Alexander's inaugural poem.
Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC. Alexander has degrees from Yale University and Boston University and completed her Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania. She has published five books of poems: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and was one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Books of the Year;” and, most recently, her first young adult collection (co-authored with Marilyn Nelson), Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color (2008 Connecticut Book Award). Her two collections of essays are The Black Interior (2004) and Power and Possibility (2007), and her play, “Diva Studies,” was produced at the Yale School of Drama.
Professor Alexander is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks, a Guggenheim fellowship as well as the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at University of Chicago. She currently teaches in the Department African American Studies at Yale University.
Posted by Nancy Simpson at 9:46 AM