Yale poet Elizabeth Alexander will give the inaugural poem at President Obama’s swearing in. She spoke on the Lehrer NewsHour about her preparation:
“My parents were very committed to civil rights, worked their whole lives toward the goals of the civil rights movement. And, so, of course, they took me when I was a baby to the March on Washington.
And to think that here, in — in that same space in Washington, D.C., we’re going to be at a quite different moment, that in some ways is the civil rights movement coming not to total fruition, but at least coming to a moment where we can stop and say that some remarkable progress has been made, is a beautiful circle.”
Watch the video here.
“I think that poetry, cross-culturally, is one of the ways that people tell the story of who we are, of who they are. So, if you look at praise songs in various African countries, if you look at “The Canterbury Tales,” if you look at “The Odyssey,” these are all ways that people have said in verse: This is who we are. This is our story. This is how we came to this moment.
So, I think that’s one of the eternal purposes of poetry. And I think, also, hopefully, what poetry does is distill language with a kind of precision that reminds us what it means to take care with the word, that the word has tremendous power, that each word matters, and that we — if we are mindful with our language to speak to each other across the many differences between us, that that is the way that I think we’re more able to communicate precisely with one another.”