Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Poet Considers Inauguration Day

Tuesday was quite the poetry day for me. By the end of the day, I fell into bed, completely wrung out by the emotions of the day.

To begin, the inauguration ceremony itself had an actual poem, something which has only happened in 3 past Inaugurals. I was pleased with Elizabeth Alexander's poem, although there was some part of me that couldn't resist thinking of the images I wish she had developed, especially that idea of patching. And I wanted to see how it was written on the page. I wondered if her delivery would have been different in a different setting; I can't imagine how difficult it must be to read a poem in blinding January light, in sub-freezing temperatures, in front of the whole nation.

If you, too, want to see the poem, either on the page or via video, go here to Collin Kelley's blog.

I thought the rest of the ceremony had plenty of poetry too. For example, the benediction had its poetic moments, with its use of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (stirring poetry in that hymn) and its updated images from Scripture--my favorite was turning tanks into tractors.

I spent much of the ceremony thinking about how I would have written things and offering silent revision tips. Is this the writer in me? The Composition teacher in me? But overall, I was pleased.

No, that's an understatement. I was profoundly moved: by the words, by the images, by the history, by the music (that piece that Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman played--I may never recover!).

And then I tried to clean up my tear stained face, and I went to the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. I heard 2 excellent craft lectures by Denise Duhamel and Gregory Orr.

Then I zipped down to my office, and zipped back to the Festival for the evening reading. I heard Denise Duhamel read and then Martin Espada. They were two very different readings, but both very compelling.

I had picked up some books before the reading, including Denise Duhamel's new book, Ka-Ching!, hot off the press (I'll write a review soon), and I had planned to have them signed.

But after the reading, I watched all the people stream towards the small room where the signing would take place, and I just had this desire to be in my car, headed towards home (it's a 30 minute drive). Going home, I stumbled across a program on the Oldies station, bits of Obama speeches mixed with inspirational songs from the 60's and 70's, like Stevie Wonder. It was a great way to finish the day.

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