She is an exciting choice for an inaugural poet. She's an embodiment of connections between multiple disciplines. Not only is she a poet, but also a playwright. She's a professor of African American Studies at Yale. She's written on education, poetry, identity, art. She's taught in many venues, from both high school and college. She knows how to connect the dots. That Mr. Obama chose her shows that he values poetry, that he knows how to connect the dots, too. He "does nuance."
Politics aside, I am thrilled that Obama is including a poet at his inauguration. Ms. Alexander will be only the fourth poet to participate in an inaugural ceremony, a fact that leaves me disappointed, but not surprised.
I'm going to stop here and say that this is the third draft of this post, the others all ending up in a vitriolic snit lamenting that that Americans don't generally read or enjoy poetry. That we have had only four inaugurations with a poet to mark the occasion is a sad thing. But someplace in the second version of this post, I decided that I'm not going to dwell on that (at least not today).
Today I'm going to celebrate that poetry is going to be present tomorrow at the ceremony. Of course, the day is about so very much more; but the presence of a poet says a great deal about the changes that are bound to come.
As way leads to way so often, I recently stumbled across a poem that speaks to the excitement ushered in with the inauguration of another President, in another time not so long ago.
I give you Linda Pastan's "Remembering Frost at Kennedy's Inauguration," from her book, Queen of a Rainy Country
Remembering Frost at Kennedy's Inauguration
Even the flags seemed frozen
to their poles, and the men
stamping their well-shod feet
resembled an army of overcoats.
But we were young and fueled
by hope, our ardor burned away
the cold. We were the president's,
and briefly the president would be ours.
The old poet stumbled
over his own indelible words,
his breath a wreath around his face:
a kind of prophecy.
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