Sunday, January 4, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander Inaugural Poet

Elizabeth Alexander has been chosen by President Elect Barack Hussein Obama to deliver the Inaugural Poem. She teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Yale University.

Alexander began as a formalist poet, but has developed a more intuitive approach. Describing her writing process, she says, “A lot of it is just making space for the mysterious ‘What’s next?’ You can prepare for the poems, but you can’t wrestle them into existence. A whole, in its roughly hewn parameters, makes itself known to me. Then there’s tinkering, revising, perfecting, which is in fact the majority of what I do.”

Here is a sample of her work:

The End
Elizabeth Alexander

The last thing of you is a doll, velveteen and spangle,
Silk douponi trousers, Ali Baba slippers that curl up at the toes,
Tinsel moustache, a doll we had made in your image
For our wedding with one of me which you have.
They sat atop our coconut cake. We cut it
Into snowy squares and fed each other, while God watched.

All other things are gone now: the letters boxed,
pajama-sized shirts bagged for Goodwill, odd utensils
farmed to graduating students starting first apartments
(citrus zester, apple corer, rusting mandoline),
childhood pictures returned to your mother,
trinkets sorted real from fake and molten
to a single bar of gold, untruths parsed,
most things unsnarled, the rest let go

save the doll, which I find in a closet,
examine closely, then set into a hospitable tree
which I drive past daily for weeks and see it still there,
in the rain, in the wind, fading in the sun,
no one will take it, it will not blow away,

in the rain, in the wind,
it holds tight to its branch,
then one day, it is gone.

From American Sublime, copyright 2005 by Elizabeth Alexander. To read more of her poems go here.

Read David Steel's comments on Obama's choice of Alexander here.

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