Inaugural Poet – Elizabeth Alexander

Jan 1, 2009 by

American President-elect Barack Obama has picked Elizabeth Alexander, an award-winning and Pulitzer Prize Finalist poet, to read a poem at his inauguration on the 20 January 2009.  The poem shall be written specifically by Alexander for the event.

This is only the fourth time in America’s history that a president has invited a poet at the inauguration.  The others were Robert Frost for JFK, and Maya Angelou  and Miller Williams for Bill Clinton.

Alexander says in her website,

Poetry is not meant to cheer; rather, poetry challenges, and moves us towards transformation. Language distilled and artfully arranged shifts our experience of the words – and the worldviews – we live in.

Apparently she is a friend of Obama’s, but when asked if that played a part on her being picked, she had this to say:

“One of the things we’ve seen with every choice he’s made is that it’s based on what he perceives as excellence,” Ms. Alexander said. “I don’t think you would let friendship determine who you chose to do something like this. You can do lots of things to be nice to your friends — you can invite them to an inaugural ball. But I don’t think friends have to do each other this kind of favor.”

Read more about her in the WSJ and NYTimes.

Thanks to

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