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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

More Notes on the Inauguration Poem

By January 28, 2009

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Elizabeth Alexander’s recitation of “Praise Song for the Day, Praise Song for Struggle” at the presidential inauguration ceremony last week was a big splash in the poetry pond. Here are a few of the more interesting ripples:

  • Commemorative chapbook of Praise Song for the Day
    Alexander’s publisher, Graywolf Press, announced that on February 6 it will publish a special chapbook edition of her inauguration ceremony poem in a press run of 100,000 copies—an unheard-of quantity for a poetry chapbook.

  • Elizabeth Alexander on The Colbert Report
    The day after Inauguration Day, Elizabeth Alexander appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Channel show to explain the difference between a metaphor and a lie, what a praise poem is, what an occasional poem is, and why she wrote the poem she did for Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Like most Colbert interviews, her appearance combined substance and punch lines.

  • Poetz.com Inaugural Issue
    Jackie Sheeler’s venerable online po-mag came out with its special issue just a few days later, making no comment on Elizabeth Alexander’s poem beyond putting a video of her reading up on the front page—and then following it up with an assortment of featured poets you just know would have given more spirited performances if they had been asked to read their poems for Obama.

  • The Inaugural Poem Remixes
    The day after the inauguration, DJ/poet Kenny G posted a notice on the blog at radio station WFMU: “By all accounts, Elizabeth Alexander’s Inaugural Poem, uh, sucked. We think you could do better. So, here’s the deal. Take her poem. Remix it, shred it, speed it up, slow it down, reconstruct it, deconstruct it, warp it, bend it, twist it, scream it, rock it, set it to noise, obliterate it. You get the idea....”—and he got more than 50 mp3s in response! He played the remixes on his January 28 WFMU radio show and they’re definitely worth a listen.


January 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm
(1) Paul D. Lawrence says:

Even 144-point type wouldn’t fill a chapbook. What sort of fools does she think we are?

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