Playing Those Mind Games
Sometimes Mondays

Blasting You With Poetry: Week 2

Welcome back to another Thursday in April, filled with poetry!


"Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language."
        -- Lucille Clifton

When we started talking about how we'd celebrate National Poetry Month on our blogs, Bonny, Kat, and I (and now Sarah has joined us, too!) thought it might be fun if, one week, we all focused on a specific poet. After a bit of thought and some back-and-forth emails, we decided that we wanted to bring you the work of a poet that might be somewhat less familiar to you. We decided on Elizabeth Alexander.

I was first introduced to Elizabeth Alexander when she presented her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at President Obama's first inauguration in 2009. You can watch her recite the poem below, or if you'd like to read it, you can find it here on the Poetry Foundation website.

[In last night's version of this post, I had conveniently embedded the YouTube clip of Elizabeth Alexander reading her poem at the inauguration. But in my ongoing - and growing - frustration with my blog platform host, TypePad, it will not work this morning, and in fact, caused formatting issues with this post that made me need to . . . start over. Not a fun way to begin the morning. I hates the TypePad. Anyway, if you'd like to see the clip - which is quite wonderful, click here to watch it on YouTube. My apologies.]

After the inauguration, I sought out more of her poetry, and started collecting a few of her books for my little library shelves.  Several years later, I read her wonderful memoir, The Light of the World (which is the most beautiful and moving memoir I have ever read; it's so much more than a memoir -- it's . . . well . . .  pure poetry) (as you might expect). 

Bonny has written a terrific background piece on Elizabeth Alexander today, so be sure to check out her post. You can also read more about Elizabeth Alexander's background, accomplishments, and current work on her website. She has a fascinating story, and I hope our posts today encourage you to learn more about her - and to delve deeper into her poetry. Her words are always deep, evocative, and powerful.

The poem I chose to share with you today is one of those poems where the poet talks about what poetry IS. (I'm always drawn to poems . . . poets write . . . about poetry.)


Ars Poetica #100: I Believe
Elizabeth Alexander

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?


Today's poem can be found in Crave Abundance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 by Elizabeth Alexander, 2010, Graywolf Press. 


I hope you'll stop by and "blast yourself" with more poetry by Elizabeth Alexander today . . . on Bonny's, Kat's, and Sarah's blogs.



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I really loved this poem the first time I read it, and I think I love it more now. What speaks to me so strongly in this piece is that she presents poetry as immensely flexible and approachable. So many people see poetry as some fancy, highbrow thing, but it's really not. Anyone can read it, write it, and appreciate it.


I have so enjoyed being immersed in Elizabeth Alexander's poetry this week. The way she puts her words together, the pauses between the lines... it is at times comfortable and at times tension creating. She is truly a joy to read! I am off to find her memoir... thank you for telling me about it! :)


As I mentioned on Kat's blog, I am so enjoying reading the poems each of you have selected this week. Truly fun!! This is a great poem Kym. "Poetry is what you find in the dirt in the corner" WOW!!


This is a new-to-me poem, Kym, and a terrific one of Elizabeth Alexander's! I especially love the last three lines, and what a great explanation of what poetry is. I've only just scratched the surface of Elizabeth Alexander's poems this week, and will definitely be reading more.


Best part for me: "(and now my voice is rising)"...Made my heart swell.


This poem is new to me and makes me interested in exploring more of Elizabeth Alexander's work. Thank you!


Poetry is the human voice. How perfectly lovely.


She's a lovely choice ... looking forward to learning more about her - thank you!


Alexander is remarkable, as a woman and as a poet. I enjoyed the memoir and also her book of essays, Power and Possibility.

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