Inaugural poets

Via Ted Genoways at the VQR blog, an interesting post by Mike Chasar on Robert Frost’s reading at JFK’s inauguration (a post that draws on an excellent online feature about Frost in VQR from a few weeks ago). Chasar’s post is inspired by Elizabeth Alexander’s impending appearance at the Obama inauguration.

PEN America 7: World Voices features a terrific talk by Alexander on “the relationship of African writers and Africa at large to American writing,” along with two of her poems. The first of these, “The African Picnic,” begins like so:

World Cup finals, France v. Brasil.
We gather in Gideon’s yard and grill.
The TV sits in the bright sunshine.
We want Brasil but Brasil won’t win.
Aden waves a desultory green and yellow flag.
From the East to the West to the West to the East
we scatter and settle and scatter some more.
Through the window, Mama watches from the cool indoors.

Obama, by the way, is only the third president to have an inaugural poet: Kennedy selected Frost, Clinton invited Maya Angelou and Miller Williams (whose daughter Lucinda is also a pretty good writer), respectively, to his two inaugurations, and now Obama has invited Elizabeth Alexander.

(Photo above by George Silk, and taken from Life magazine’s excellent online photo archive.)

PS. Also on the VQR blog, Ted Genoways selects his top ten 2008 poetry collections, a list that includes The Earth in the Attic, by Fady Joudah.

1 comment:

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