Posted by: janesstories | January 27, 2009

The Inaugural Poem–What do you think?

Elizabeth Alexander’s presidential poem: Praise song for the day 8:58am Elizabeth Alexander (born May 30, 1962) is an American poet, essayist, and playwright. She is the daughter of former United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairman Clifford Alexander, Jr. Her 2005 volume of poetry, “American Sublime” was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize of that year. She has degrees from Yale University, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her Ph.D. While a graduate student, she was a reporter for the Washington Post. She currently teaches English language/literature, African-American literature and gender studies at Yale and was an academic fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, for the 2007-’08 academic year.

PRAISE SONG FOR THE DAY: A POEM FOR BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

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 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 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 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

Elizabeth Alexander’s presidential poem: Praise song for the day 8:58am Elizabeth Alexander (born May 30, 1962) is an American poet, essayist, and playwright. She is the daughter of former United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairman Clifford Alexander, Jr. Her 2005 volume of poetry, “American Sublime” was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize of that year. She has degrees from Yale University, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her Ph.D. While a graduate student, she was a reporter for the Washington Post. She currently teaches English language/literature, African-American literature and gender studies at Yale and was an academic fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, for the 2007-’08 academic year.

PRAISE SONG FOR THE DAY: A POEM FOR BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

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 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 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 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 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.

—Elizabeth Alexander

Audio here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98467631

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