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
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.