A Note from Mel

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Politics, Poetry and Prose?: On Inaugural Poet, Elizabeth Alexander January 22, 2009


Elizabeth Alexander, Inaugural Poet

Elizabeth Alexander, Inaugural Poet for Barack Obama

Alexander’s “say it plain” delivery impelled varied responses.


“She can’t read as well as Maya Angelou.”


“The highlight of the Inauguration!”


“That’s not poetry. That’s prose.”


Alexander, mother, professor, poet, created her space:


All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

one of our ancestors on our tongues.


To have the opportunity to be the vehicle, the body through which words that will forever define this day come. To be alive in a moment like ours. Ours. Yes, Mrs. Elizabeth Alexander spoke it painstakingly slow and without performance. Yet, her paced, deliberate speech caused me to believe she meant every word. She respects the duties, the struggle, and the perspective of every person in her poem:


A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teachers says, Take out your pencils. Begin.


The message was not to be rushed or missed in a culture’s rhythm. This was a new nation’s poem. A young nation experiencing growing pains because somehow on this day, we’re acknowledging (and maybe even listening to) all the voices, the dead voices, the varied voices, the hopeful voices, the knowing voices, and the lost voices that resonate within its post-pubescent throat. The gravity of Barack Obama’s Inauguration alone is reason to speak calmly, speak slowly, but by all means, to speak. But before all this necessary speaking and action to bring our nation to the fruition of its responsibilities and accountabilities as a maturing nation, can we be reflective and even nostalgic at times, for its childhood? Can we allow ourselves the time to stop performing, but to pause briefly in between words, images, and history to consider if “the mightiest word is love?”


Our nation’s tomorrow requires less talking paired with device and more deliberation complemented by deliberate action and heart.  Elizabeth Alexander’s Praise Song for the Day stirs up this calm call to reflect in order to move, in order to pause deliberately in between device to let the mightiest word, love, fill in the all the undefined spaces.


Read the Complete Text of Elizabeth Alexander’s Inaugural Poem at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28755895/


Learn more about Elizabeth Alexander at: http://elizabethalexander.net/index.html