Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Ars Poetica #100: I Believe" by Elizabeth Alexander

In the midst of a news report about President-elect Obama's inauguration today, I saw a reference to poet Elizabeth Alexander, who will be performing at the ceremony (along with Aretha Franklin, which is awesome). Obama is reinstating the tradition of an inaugural poem after our esteemed current president dropped it. Anyway, I had never heard of Ms. Alexander, so I Googled around and found her website, and I quite like this:

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?


  1. I had never heard of her either. I did a Google as well earlier today and read her ARS POETICA #100 on her website. Isn't it an outstanding poem? Just says it all.

    I wonder if Obama knows her from his Harvard days.

    My guess was he was going to ask Nikki Grimes.

    There has not been an inaugural poet since 1997 and Clinton's 2nd swearing in ceremony.

    This fact does not surprise me at all. ;}


  2. Thank you for posting that poem. I love it. I think I'll print it out and post it by my desk for a while.

  3. clam flats and shells that snap... what wonderful, seasidey, sandy, crisp sounds those words make together.

    Thank you for posting!

  4. On another note!!

    With school and work and all, I've just finished reading the copy of "Moribito" that you sent a while ago.

    So when is the next one coming out?! There is a next one, isn't there? I need to know!

  5. I am thrilled that poetry is back for the inauguration! Great poem.

  6. I'm thrilled about the poetry, but very upset at the choice of Rick Warren to do the Invocation. I didn't think he would give a platform to someone who is so exclusionist.

  7. I can't tell you how glad I am that poetry is returning to the white house. Loved Ars Poetica #100. Thanks!