Poetry at the Inauguration

This is why I love the increasingly collaborative nature of this blog. Nancy Lord just sent a link to this NYT 12/24 story about Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who has been chosen to write a poem that she will read at Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 Inauguration. She is only the fourth poet to be included in a presidential inauguration, the first three being Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Miller Williams. (Both Angelou and Williams took part in Bill Clinton’s inaugurations.)

First thought: What an assignment. Can you imagine that kind of pressure?

Second thought: Poetry — and a respect for language — back in the White House! Big sigh. Big smile.

As the NYT said, quoting Christian Wiman, an editor of Poetry Magazine,

“In a way, the poem itself is not the point … I would guess that a president-elect decides to have an inaugural poem in the first place not in the hope of commissioning some eternal work of art, but in order to acknowledge that there is an intimate, inevitable connection between a culture’s language and its political life. That Obama wants to make such a gesture seems to me a pure good — for poetry, yes, but also for the country.”

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