Poetry is back!

Thank you, Barack Obama, for bringing back the art of words. President-elect Obama has selected Elizabeth Alexander to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Alexander will be only the fourth poet to be featured at a presidential inauguration. Robert Frost read at John F. Kennedy’s in 1961; Maya Angelou and Miller Williams read at Clinton’s in 1993 and 1997.

Alexander is an award-winning poet and professor at Yale University. She has written four books of poetry and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 for her collection American Sublime. Last year, she won the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize.

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?