Monday, January 26, 2009

"Praise Song for the Day" Reloaded (Attack of the Inaugural Poem)

elizabeth alexanderWith most Americans, I watched the inauguration ceremonies of President Barack Obama last Tuesday. At times I wept. At others, grinned like the Cheshire cat. And, being a poet, I actually paid attention to Elizabeth Alexander as she recited her poem "Praise Song for the Day," written for the inauguration. I paid attention, but knew I'd have to find the video and text, sit somewhere, and be still before forming an opinion. (Alexander pictured at right.)

Preparing to write this post, I sifted through critiques of the poem, most of them so negative that I considered entitling this post, "Why Y'all Be Hatin' on a Sister?" The content of the post would have been a list of review links with notations beside each link: He a hater; She a hater; Not a hater; Idiot; Look, it's a suck-up! (the last designation reserved for gushers who say things like, "It's a masterpiece, the best poem I've ever read in my life!)

In addition, I procrastinated on reading the reviews for a few days after I saw some of the firsts. I dreaded knowing too much because I'd want to tell it all, which is why I'm glad to have come across ... Please continue reading at BlogHer.


"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and "I, Too, Sing America"
By Langston Hughes, I, Too, Sing America (text)
* Dr. Maya Angelou performing "On the Pulse of Morning" at former President Bill Clinton's first inauguration.
* A profile/interview on Elizabeth Alexander at National Post, "Elizabeth Alexander and the language of history"


coldspaghetti said...

It was so nice to read your commentary on the poem. I was very impressed with Dr. Alexander's interview on NPR and was looking forward to hearing her at the inauguration. Although I could hear the words and had the sense that this was a beautiful piece -- I felt her delivery was nervous, shaky, and not up to the standard of the text she was sharing. I do think it's hard to defend her delivery, and because of that, she has become the punching bag for anyone who wants to find something to criticize about the event, which is a shame. She is obviously an accomplished writer and provided a beautiful piece for the day, even if it's delivery was labored.

Vérité Parlant said...

Great name for a blog. :-)

Thank you.

She looked scared witless. Imagine looking out at all those people and knowing even more were watching by satellite. Yikes!

I've heard, however, that she tends to read all her poetry that way.


Oh, Nordette, you write so many blogs on so many topics and you do it so well, but this one is exceptional!

I read the inaugural poem for the first time today (thanks to your link) and I found it to be beautiful! The thing is, I never could have expressed why it is beautiful as well as you have done. Thank you. I wish that everyone (or at least one from each family) would read this post and wake up to the treasures that poetry lays at our feet.

nolapoet said...

Thank God, someone had something intelligent to say about this poem.

Got here via FB via BlogHer.

Question: WTF is "an academic approach to rhythm" or whatever that Northwestern writer said? So completely silly... so ideologically pure.

Best from a fellow New Orleanian and poet,

Robin Kemp