Monday, January 19, 2009

Celebration and Poetry

Here is a poem by the poet Elizabeth Alexander, chosen by President-Elect Barack Obama to help celebrate his inauguration. I hope you will join me in listening to her reveal it on the steps of the Capitol during the Inauguration event (or you can purchase a chapbook of it from Greywolf Press, which I encourage).

No matter what you think of the incoming or outgoing administration, celebrate the arts — and poetry — with gusto. Read, listen, enjoy.

Turn to the arts, to poetry, to celebrate, mourn, whatever your mood.

Poetry is waiting for you. Go to it.


Filene's department store
near nineteen-fifty-three:
An Aunt Jemima floor
display. Red bandanna,

Apron holding white rolls
of black fat fast against
the bubbling pancakes, bowls
and bowls of pale batter.

This is what Donna sees,
across the "Cookwares" floor,
and hears "Donnessa?" Please,
This can not be my aunt.

Father's long-gone sister,
nineteen-fifty-three. "Girl?"
Had they lost her, missed her?
This is not the question.

This must not be my aunt.
Jemima? Pays the rent.
Family mirrors haunt
their own reflections.

Ladders. Sisters. Nieces.
As soon as a live Jemima
as a buck-eyed rhesus
monkey. Girl? Answer me.

by Elizabeth Alexander
From The Venus Hottentot. Copyright © 2004 by Elizabeth Alexander.

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