I am saddened by how many people have expressed their dislike for the inaugural poem. Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for The Day" was all at once humbling and captivating.

Poetry does not sparkle. It does not connect itself with glamorous fashion and shout, "Hey, look at me! I'm a rhyming, dancing machine." Likewise, it does not make our world cryptic and it does not seek to baffle.

In fact, poetry is quite the opposite. It seeks to unlock the obscurities of our world. Poems, like stories, connect us to an intimate inner narrative, to a private world rather than a public voice. There was a moment when Alexander read, All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Alexander illuminates the mundane. She doesn't make our world sparkle but she gives it a sounding board.

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.


For the struggle of the slave, of the immigrant, of the parent who has just been laid off and is trying to figure out how to survive--Alexander's poem brings harmony to these dissonant worlds. We are each connected, inextricably, to what is our struggle as human beings who live and fight and love and hate and seek to rise and make a better day for our sons and daughters.

The ending takes my breath away:

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.


This ending ushers humanity to a unified light and it saddens me that so many people who listened to the poem found themselves disinterested, disconcerted, dull...or sunless.
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