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Friday, October 29, 2010

Poetry Friday--Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander read at the recent Boston Book Festival. If her name sounds familiar, it's because Alexander wrote the inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day," for Barack Obama.

The text to the poem is included in Crave Radiance.

Alexander's latest book is Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 [811.54 ALE], and she read several poems from it at the BBF.

What I like about Alexander's work is that she takes small bits and pieces of history and illuminates them. Here are a few poem titles: "Compass," about polar explorer Matthew Henson; "Affirmative Action Blues," about Rodney King; "Nat Turner Dreams of Insurrection." Alexander collaborated with poet Marilyn Nelson on Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, and some of those poems are also included in the collection. If you don't know the story of Prudence Crandall, you can learn a little here.

One of the Miss Crandall poems is "We":
Colored are new to these townsfolk, who say
we have come to take white husbands, but we
are young girls who do not think of such things.
They see us horned, tailed, befeathered, with
enormous bottoms and jaws that snap, red-
devil eyes that could hex a man and make him
leave home. Though the state has said no to slavery,
we know how it happens with colored girls
and white men, their red-devil eyes and tentacles.
Our mothers have taught us remarkably
to blot out these fears, black them out, and flood
our mind with light and God's great face.
We think about that which we cannot see:
something opening wide and bright, a key.
Check out The Writer's Armchair for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.


  1. Diane, I enjoyed this introduction to a poet who combines history with poetry.

  2. Great poem. Thanks for sharing it -- isn't the final couplet wonderful?

  3. It's the Diane Blog Tour this morning! Where do you find the time?

    Thanks for this. Haven't read this book in a while. Such powerful images:

    They see us horned, tailed, befeathered, with
    enormous bottoms and jaws that snap, red-
    devil eyes that could hex a man and make him
    leave home.

    And love the ending couplet. Beautiful!

  4. Thanks for visiting ladies!

    To answer your question, Laura, all my blogs satisfy different needs. This particular blog is my work one, so I do it on the job. My quote blog is just because, and it takes, at most, 5 minutes a day. Random Noodling is a place to be obsessive about haiku-related things, and I really like doing it. The Write Sisters is not every week, so it is manageable. (I also have another one, READS-TO-GO for a book discussion program I'm heading up on the state level, but posting is pretty occasional.)

    I often do posts way in advance. As a matter of fact, I have one ready to go for next spring, because I thought the topic was good and I didn't want to forget it. I think I'm suited to blog writing!