And are we not of interest to each other?

Elizabeth Alexander will be reading a poem today during the Inauguration ceremonies. I heard her on NPR on Saturday morning as I was coming home from the Farmer’s Market (gah, again with the pretentiousness!) and I came across this poem of hers that I would like to share.

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?

Here’s an interesting article about writing poems for occasions such as these. It also talks about the history of the inaugural poem.

Last week, in a discussion of Martin Luther King’s birthday, I talked with my students about being tired of injustice and about being how standing up for what is right can help make the people around you more brave. As we talked about Rosa Parks, a quiet girl raised her hand and said, “I don’t understand why people would treat each other so bad.” I said, “It’s good you don’t understand it, because it doesn’t make sense.” Today my students will see history made, and I am honored to experience it with them.

(Or, if it actually snows like Mike and Alisa think, then I suppose I will experience it at home.)

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