Monday, January 19, 2009

Presidential Poetry

Tomorrow is going to be a huge day. HUGE. Not just here in the U.S., but no doubt, around the world. It's Inauguration Day for our new President.

From my previous posts, one might infer that I do not support our soon-to-be President. That would be incorrect. He is clearly an intelligent man with a new approach to things and has given our nation hope in one of its darkest hours. I may not have shared the fervor that so many have expressed, as I am a skeptic all around and prefer results rather than speculation; I may not agree with all of his proposed plans, and am not easily persuaded by his iconic stature, but I do look forward to better times ahead and, like many, am filled with hope that it all begins tomorrow.

But first, the celebrations. The swearing-in ceremony, the crowds, the music, the speeches, the poetry. Yes, the poetry - a small, but significant part of the day. The first inaugural poem in recent memory (not mine, mind you!) was read by Robert Frost at Kennedy's inauguration. Only Bill Clinton followed suit, having an inaugural poem at both inaugurations. Now, it's up to Yale Professor Elizabeth Alexander to capture the momentous occasion of having the first African American become President. The pressure is on to select just the right words, both solemn and celebratory, because, for certain, will the poem be immortalized. There was an interview yesterday with the poet; the interviewer asked if it was difficult to create a poem "on demand." She agreed it was, but said she was not scared by the challenge.

I am so glad to have the inaugural poem receive so much awareness and anticipation. Readers of THP version 1.0 might recall my attempt to encourage awareness about poetry in our times. It's not "fluff." It deserves attention, and tomorrow will put it front and center, if only for a minute in history. As one who dabbles in poetry myself, I admire Elizabeth greatly but do not envy her in her task to encapsulate the day. It is a tremendous challenge, indeed. But, I look forward to hearing her words tomorrow.

So, kudos to Elizabeth, and kudos to President Obama. Tomorrow will be their moments to shine, and we will feel the warmth of the glow.


Gururaj said...

Indeed yes, this is a momentous occasion, the inauguration of America's first African-American president, it should surely be well captured in a poem
haiku graphics

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the poem and the author's delivery was awful.

Christine said...

What a disappointment! I actually delayed a work meeting just so I could hear it. She could have said so much more, in such a better way. Well, if anything, hopefully this won't be the end of the inaugural poem.

Christine said...

As a follow-up to yesterday's comment, here is the poem (special thanks to Mark Flanagan for posting), and reader comments about the poem. I'm glad I wasn't the only one to express disappointment:

Alexander Variety said...

It was a very difficult task for Elizabeth Alexander to provide this poetry I'm sure. Perhaps she was afraid to let the poem be simple due to the importance of the request.