The news of that Elizabeth Alexander has been chosen as Inaugural Poet still has me trippin’ in all kinds of good ways. I know there is Haterade flowin’ freely from George Packer, blogging for the New Yorker, and from some folks at the Harriet blog but I perceive that as the vocal minority when it comes to poets seeking to nation build through verse.
I’m not gonna front like I’m a huge Elizabeth Alexander fan but I am looking forward to reading more of her work and, like everyone else, I will be checking out the Inaugural Poem from every kind of angle. Well, maybe not like everyone, since poetic presentation is not on everyone’s personal poetic rubric but maybe if it was they would be asked to read in (no hype here) front of the world. If they also focused on community connectivity (Alexander knows Obama from way back in the day when he was just a community organizer) instead of bringing a hammer down on attempts to create a mosaic from fractures, they would be asked to share their poem in the biggest spotlight American poetry has received in a long time. Then again, if all you want to do is share your work with a captive audience who is only digesting it because they’ve been forced to, it’s all good.
Back to the positive, Alexander has a great write up in the Politics section of the New York Times with thoughts about:
The Inaugural Poem
“Writing an occasional poem has to attend to the moment itself,” she said in an interview, “but what you hope for, as an artist, is to create something that has integrity and life that goes beyond the moment.”
Who Should’ve Been the Inaugural Poet
“(Gwendolyn Brooks) should have been the one, were she living, for this,” Ms. Alexander said of the honor bestowed by Mr. Obama. “The Bard of the South Side. She wrote from Obama’s neighborhood for so many years.” Here she recited Brooks’s familiar line: “Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.”
Obama’s Effect on the Inaugural Poem
“President-elect Obama is extremely efficient with language,” she added. “It is tremendously rich and tremendously precise but also never excessive. I really, really admire that. That’s a poet’s sensibility. I’m going to follow his lead.”
Complete article here.
Also happy to see a mention of Cave Canem in the article, another great example of Ms Alexander’s community building.
Speaking of building, Graywolf Press is set to distribute the Inaugural Poem in chapbook format which should result in an influx of working capital in addition to the great press and free advertising they are currently receiving. All of this is a fine recipe for a publishing house to stay solvent through a rough time for most of other poetry publishers. A true shot in the arm for contemporary poetic literature.
A shot in the arm if you are interested in poetry thriving as a diverse and varied body with distinct areas of growth that can all take a fair share of the spotlight. However, if your view of contemporary American poetics is trapped in a degenerative myopia, then keep on walking and go sip your cup of Haterade over by the edge of the nearest and most convenient cliff.