What an amazing day it has been in America today. On the bus this morning people were talking about the impending inauguration. Downtown, people were talking and walking with buttons pinned to their winter coats. I did not get to escape the library to watch the ceremony on TV even though pretty much the only ones in the building were staff. But we streamed the audio over the internet.
I got to hear Obama mess up saying the oath of office and that made me laugh. How nervous he must have been! And I heard his speech, what a beautiful speech! And I somehow managed not to cry. I saved it for when I was at home and got to listen to a replay on public radio. If you didn’t get the chance to hear it, you can read the text or you can watch a video. And I just have to say, wasn’t Michelle Obama’s suit gorgeous?
I wanted very much to hear the poem, Praise Song for the Day, by Elizabeth Alexander, but didn’t get to. But, the NY Times has the text in full. I really like it and plan to get a copy of it when Graywolf publishes it in February.
My favorite lines, one that comes in the middle of the poem:
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
And the final two lines:
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.
I think Alexander managed to capture the hope and possibility that Obama inspired in his run for office. I also like how what is praised is the everyday, the work and struggle of life. A beautiful poem. And you bet I will be taking at look at Alexander’s other work too.