Embracing the world with positive creativity since Sept 2007.
(AP photo of Elizabeth Alexander by Michael Marsland)
Born in Harlem in 1962, Elizabeth Alexander was selected by President-Elect Barack Obama to serve as his inaugural poet January 20, 2009. This choice made Alexander the newest member of what may be the most exclusive literary club in history, which is the club of four inaugural poets that include Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Miller Williams.
In the official response to her selection posted on her web site, Alexander complimented Obama on his respect for language. She also has this to say about his inauguration and modern poetry: “This is a powerful moment in our history. The joy I feel is sober and profound because so much struggle and sacrifice have brought us to this day. And there is so much work to be done ahead of us. Poetry is not meant to cheer; rather, poetry challenges, and moves us towards transformation. Language distilled and artfully arranged shifts our experience of the words – and the worldviews – we live in.”
In additon to being a poet, Alexander is a fellow at Harvard University, an essayist, and playwright. Her books include and the author of: American Sublime (Graywolf Press, 2005), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Black Interior (essays, Graywolf, 2004); Antebellum Dream Book (2001); Body of Life (1996); and The Venus Hottentot (1990).
For an NPr interview with the Presidental Inaugural Poet, please click the link below:
The following poem by Alexander is titled ARS POETICA #100: I BELIEVE
Ars Poetica #100: I Believe
Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said
“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats
for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.
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.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.
poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?
©by Elizabeth Alexander