Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Poet: Elizabeth Alexander

For only the fourth time in history, a poet (in this case, Elizabeth Alexander) recited a poem at the presidential inauguration. Alexander is in good company: Robert Frost read at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961 and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams read at Bill Clinton's inaugurations in 1993 and 1997, respectively. Here is an excerpt from Alexander's inaugural poem, titled Praise Song for the Day:
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
The New York Times has the full text of the poem here. Graywolf Press, Alexander's publisher, will publish the poem in a chapbook next month.

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