Oh jeez, y'all.
Here is the text of the "poem" read by Ms Alexander:
Praise Song for the Day.
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not,
about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise.
All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din,
each one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform,
patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce,
built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.
Um. "lettuce" and "edifice" might be a clever rhyme, but in the words of a colleague, "it didn't really seem like a poem to me -- it was more like an essay."
This, my friends, is the epitome of poetry in America?
We should all stop writing.
In better news, let's look at this poem:
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who has brought us this far along the way,
thou who has by thy might
brought us into the light,
keep us forever in the path we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world we forget thee.
Shadowed beneath thy hand
may we forever stand
true to thee O God
and true to our native land.
That, of course, is the end of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson. A better poem by far than the piece of crap written for the inauguration.
I weep for our letters.
Edit: A lot of people have been looking for an explanation of Alexander's inaugural poem. There isn't one. It's nothing more than agrammatical slosh filled with hackneyed quasi-poetic phrases. It wouldn't have passed muster back when I taught introductory creative writing to sixth graders.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Oh jeez, y'all.