January 20, 2009

Inauguration Poet Elizabeth Alexander Recites at Obama's Swearing- In Ceremony

"Words Can Inspire" said Barack Obama in one of his speeches earlier on this week; one wonders if Alexander's did...

Was Alexander advocating for the power of words or was it for "
love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance"?

Transcript of Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem

1:25 PM PST, January 20, 2009

The following is a transcript of the inaugural poem recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by CQ transcriptions.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

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.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company


net-net4 said...

With some delay....
Love & Peace & Power of words....

Eshuneutics said...

If you look at Mark Doty's site, he has a copy of the text in its true form, one that shows the poet's three line stanza structure and line turnings. It is worth a ponder.

pRicky said...

Words do quite a bit. They define our exsitence. They give a meaning and a reason.
Id... I have been silent for a quite a bit. Was somewhat disillusioned by my writing. Hope you would forgive my long absence. I hope to change that...

Pavitra said...

Loved it!

I like th eway it accepts that everyone has a different principle to live by...I do feel that love forms the basis of every such principle!


Georg said...

Hallo Iditis,

By chance I listened to Ms Alexander, too.

I can't help thinking a good poem should rhyme. And this one didn't.

But I highly appreciated her diction. I understood her and I am happy about that.


Tazeen said...

I am afraid i gotta agree with Georg here. lack of rhyming does it for me.

Georg said...

Hallo Iddy (just don't know how to address you),

Just coming back from reading Ms Alexander's text. Still don't understand why it's called a poem. There are not even lines.

Reading these words makes me think of a written snapshot, you know those instant photos.

Here is what I consider a poem, in English language.

" When shall we three meet again
in thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly 's done,
when the battle 's lost and won "

So let's meet again next year at the latest to find out what has been achieved.

Meanwhile, cheers to you

Id it is said...

Georg/ Tazeen
It is the way the poem shows up on my post that takes away from the flow of this piece; Eshuneutics suggests Mark Doty's site where the poem appears in it's three line stanza form:
Mark Doty describes it well as "a fine example of the way a well-placed line and a shapely stanza energizes and formalizes plain speech; the formal choices here emphasize the clarity,dignity and grace of Alexander's language"

Anonymous said...

..answered on my blog.

sivananth said...

I understand Obama becoming President carries a lot of significance for America and her impression on the world. But I did feel he is prone to some publicity seeking, his using Bible used by Abraham Lincoln while taking oath, for example.

I do hope for the world's sake he delivers, now that his presidency has entered the prose epoch.

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