Thursday, January 22, 2009

Love Fest

When I say “President Barack Obama,” I’m still taken aback that we have elected and installed the first African American president. HOW COOL IS THAT?


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There’s been a lot of chatter back and forth about Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem. Can’t think of a harder job than to write for a non-poetry, global audience. But I love that she’s receiving all of this much-deserved attention.

In re-reading “Praise Song,” I found myself engaged again in the last stanza, which is the acknowledgement of new beginnings and that there is something more, possibly better, in our futures. The poem really is a lovely ode to possibility.

Whether you liked the poem or not, it is now part of our culture, on its way to being mythic. Fascinating.
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Question: When you’re reading a poem or a story in front of a group, do you say “thank you” at the end of your performance to signal the end, or do you, like Elizabeth Alexander, say nothing and wait for the crowd to respond? (I don’t like awkward silences, so I say thank you, usually.)


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Some other things that may have gotten missed this week.

If you liked the poem, why not tell The White House how it made you feel? I did. (Thanks Kelli!)

Graywolf is publishing the inaugural poem.

Listen to Natasha Trethewey interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

And now for something completely different: Are you a fan of the poetic form Cinquain? If so, check out Cinquain.org and try your hand at writing this five-line poem.

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I confess, there was too much going on to post confessions this week. I'll be back next Tuesday with a new roundup for Confession Tuesday.

7 comments:

LJCohen said...

Cinquains are a very cool form. Thank you for the link to Aaron Toleos' website--it was one I hadn't seen before. But he links to Amaze: the Cinquain Journal (www.amaze-cinquain.com), which I'm webmaster for. :)

I haven't written one in quite some time, but I do go back to this form again and again. I find the discipline of writing to such a strict form helps break me out of poetry ruts.

Writer Bug said...

Interesting question regarding poem reading. I thought the way Alexander ended the reading was awkward. I couldn't tell if it was over, or if she was just turning the page.

...deb said...

It was a fabulous day! (I like your links and ideas.)

And I, too, like all the talk surrounding EA's poem, which touched me as I heard her read it. I was a *very* willing audience member. :-) And accepted it with my heart, not my head. The criticism can't touch the momentous moment. IMHO.

I like the silence, even if awkward. It reminds me of the stillness after live music (usually orchestral) when the silence is a part of the piece.

If one is to say "thank you" it ought to be after the blossoming pause -- and said just as anxiety starts. Calls for remarkable timing. I can imagine the maestro's baton, help still, grabbing the listener's ear and letting go, just, *when.*

Collin Kelley said...

Elizabeth Alexander is giving her first post-inauguration at Emory U. here in Atlanta in February. I plan to be there with bells on.

January said...

Collin, you must recap the event for us on your blog!

January said...

Deb, "And accepted it with my heart, not my head. The criticism can't touch the momentous moment."
That's a great way to think about the poem and the day.

Bug, not sure which channel you were watching, but on CNN the camera cut away at the end of her reading. So I couldn't see if it was the end of the poem. But it did seem a little awkward at the end.

Lisa, I met Aaron at Cinquain.org at my inauguration reading. He's also on FB. I've never written one (intentionally) so I may give it a try this weekend. Small world!

~ said...

Question: When you’re reading a poem or a story in front of a group, do you say “thank you” at the end of your performance to signal the end, or do you, like Elizabeth Alexander, say nothing and wait for the crowd to respond? (I don’t like awkward silences, so I say thank you, usually.)

****For me personally, I would have said "Thank you." I'm big on thanks though-- thanks for this day, this moment. I would have felt weird if I didn't say it.

And I might have even said something before the poem, like "To honor and celebrate this glorious moment I will read Praise song..." But I'm guessing I would have gotten the hook and yanked off the stage for doing an ad-lib.

No actually,I probably would have read my poem starting with the title just to be easy on myself... (WWMD?) Would would Maya Do? ;-)


It's been a good week for poetry, no matter what though.

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