Professor had the challenging task of writing a poem for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She read that poem, ??aloud to millions of people on January 20, 2009. Alexander, an rican poet, filled the shoes of literary giants like Robert Frost, Miller Williams, and Maya Angelou, all of whom read original poems at past presidential inaugurations.
Alexander chose to write her poem in the form of a ??A praise song is a traditional form of , one that usually celebrates an individual, a god, a village, or an aspect of nature. This choice of form seems particularly apt in light of President Obama鎶?African heritage.
When looking at this poem, a good place to start is by asking whom or what is Alexander鎶?poem praising?
* 鎼昲e day??As you might guess, Alexander is praising 鎼昲e day??January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama鎶?inauguration day. But this day is more than just another presidential inauguration. Alexander is celebrating the day that a black man can become the President of the United States.
* 鎼昲e dead who brought us here, / who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, / picked the cotton and the lettuce, built / brick by brick the glittering edifices / they would then keep clean and work inside of??Alexander praises the people that carried us to this momentous day. Each of the jobs listed above may correspond to a group of Americans. Here are a few possibilities: 鎼榟o laid the train tracks?could refer to the many Chinese immigrants who worked to build the Central Pacific Railroad. 鎻o [鍖?picked the cotton?likely refers to black slaves, whereas those who 鎼峣cked [鍖?the lettuce?may be a reference to Mexican migrant workers, especially in California. This poem honors and praises the many people who built and developed our nation.
* 鎼昲e struggle??This struggle seems to be related to the people that Alexander referred to above ?immigrants, slaves, and other hardworking Americans ?who have struggled for equality, racial justice, and a better future.
* 鎻簐ery hand-lettered sign??She goes on to celebrate the many people of today who have participated in the Obama campaign, making 鎻綼nd-lettered sign[s].?In this way, Alexander is recognizing the numerous average Americans who have volunteered in large and small ways, to bring about this share here amazing day.
Just as the poet praises the progress that America and Americans have made, the structure of her poem also reflects this movement and progress using the metaphor of walking.
The poem opens saying, 鎻坅ch day we go about our business, / walking past each other, catching each other鎶?/ eyes or not.?This line reminds us of how busy we can become with our tasks, text messages, or our own worlds. 鎻lking past?also indicates that people move in multiple different directions as they go about the business of their daily lives.
The poem then focuses on ordinary tasks performed by Americans of all backgrounds ?tasks like mending clothes, fixing flat tires, making music, waiting for the bus, taking a test, or checking out the clouds in the sky. This establishes that this work of poetry is about average Americans ?teachers, farmers, mothers, handymen.
Alexander seems to present several voices of people who walk traditional and non-traditional paths ?some seeking safety, some new frontiers, and some a better life. All of them walk toward an unknown future.
Shmoop’s interpretation is just one of many possible, but perhaps the poet is suggesting that each person is propelled forward by a sense of stewardship for the spirit, the body, or the earth, but ultimately they are driven by love. Further, she may be saying that if we recognize this common thread as global citizens, we will 鎻穉st a widening pool of light.?br />
At the end of the poem, Alexander uses a similar image of walking, but instead of 鎼榓lking past each other,?she describes 鎼榓lking forward in that light.?We move from walking 鎼峚st?to walking 鎻籵rward,?from the past to the future. The idea of walking 鎻籵rward?indicates people walking click more details in the same direction, in sync and united. This walking together has brought the country to 鎼昲e brink, [鍖?hill climb racing hack online the brim, [鍖?the cusp?of something altogether new, a time in American history in which 鎻硁ything can be made, any sentence begun.?br />
Alexander closes her praise song by celebrating America鎶?new direction.
About the Poet: Elizabeth Alexander is a professor of African American Studies at Yale University. Barack Obama鎶?selection of her was called 鎼峞rfect?by the president of the Poetry Foundation, John Barr. In Barr鎶?words, 鎻俵exander is one of the seminal voices in contemporary American poetry. Like Whitman before her, Alexander has always sought in her poems to celebrate America鎶?tremendous common spirit and edurance by acknowledging our differences and triumphs?(source).