Author Topic: Praise Song of the Day  (Read 1717 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  • Guest
Praise Song of the Day
« on: January 20, 2009, 06:42 PM »
Here is what I have found. Maybe not the official version, but it's close.


Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the 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.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

–Elizabeth Alexander

Offline Kay

  • Serene
  • Paragon
  • *
  • Posts: 5111
    • poetry
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2009, 06:54 PM »
Witt, I really enjoyed this a lot. Thanks for posting it. It says so much.  :rose

Offline champagne_shoes

  • Paragon
  • *
  • Posts: 1943
  • Subterranean Hotel Resident
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2009, 07:58 PM »
For me, that  poem and its unfortunate recitation was the least poetic aspect of the inaugural ceremony. Give me Aretha Franklin and Bill Clinton in a yellow scarf, the noble ruins of Jimmy Carter, and of course, the fallible Obama.

just one non-American ( not un-American) opinion.
"A community of poets is like a community of cats." joey

Offline Kay

  • Serene
  • Paragon
  • *
  • Posts: 5111
    • poetry
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2009, 09:07 PM »
what a dummy I am. I was at the gym working out and didn't even
see the ceremony (Obama) until after I read this. Jeez. As far as
the politics go, I'm tired of all of it (it's overkill by now here) . Wishing him the best and the nation
as well.

Offline WordFaery

  • Paragon
  • *
  • Posts: 2310
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2009, 11:13 PM »
I was disappointed in the poem too.  There's nothing particularly moving here, nothing to really forge a connection. Here is one of the great opportunities for a poet to reach out and embrace people, move them, make the words soar and she delivers her work like a robot.


"Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame."      W.B. Yeats

Word Faery

Offline Bill

  • Paragon
  • *
  • Posts: 1639
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2009, 11:37 AM »
I checked out the YouTube video recording.  And I read quite a number of the comments posted there.  My reaction to those comments?

Let's see...

You've been asked by the president-elect to compose a poem for his inauguration, something done only three times in the past.  Yup, your first reaction is to say, "No, but thanks for asking.  I don't think I'm qualified for the task.  Maybe you should ask..."

Attempt to compose a poem wich reflects commonalities and engages the hearts and minds of nearly 200,000 people on site, 2,000,000 in the city, over 250,000,000 nationwide, over 6,000,000,000 worldwide, whose general education, let alone individual education in the mechanics and performance of poetry, vary as much as their ages and races, let alone the range of their vocabularies.

Attempt to communicate your composition while shivering in a blowing wind chill factor that freezes water.

Attempt to communicate it well, when you are not, and never were trained to be, a spoken word performer.  (That is not her claim to fame.)

Realize that you are given a set amount of time, about five minutes, to pull off that hat-trick.

Realize, in the process of those attempts, that you will be heard and critiqued by thousands upon thousands, no, probably millions upon millions of published and unpublished poets worldwide, many thinking he/she could have done a better job, both in composing and presenting, let alone your own peer group community of professors of poetry, many chagrined that he or she was not chosen for the honor.  (Not to mention those who believe that poetry in motion is more entertaining than the written word.)

Realize, in the process of those attempts, that, for the slightest mis-spoken word, you will be ridiculed and vilified by those who have never given a public speech, and by those whose largest audience was about fifty people at some poetry jam where local heroes are coronated for just breathing.

Talk about a no win situation.

Yeah, watching from the cheap seats, (in my case, in front of a television sitting on a padded office chair in a climate-controlled atmosphere, forgetting how "well" some of my own efforts have been received by a community as small as the SplashHall, all of a couple thousand members and counting, not one of which I've ever been asked to perform,) sure provides us with the proper perspective to critique a poem written and presented under such conditions.

By the way, the benediction was written in the form of a poem, as well.  Many, if not most, would say presentation, delivery, was far better spoken than the poem's.  But then that reveals the difference between a trained and experienced public speaker, and a professor in any discipline.  For in the attainment of knowledge, few professors ever seek to attain the ability to communicate it in a fashion that engages the audience. 

"Anyone? ... Anyone? ..." Ferris Buehler's Day Off


  • Guest
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2009, 12:25 PM »
Well said, Bill. Thanks for your well thought out reaction.
"Talk about a no-win situation."

I thought that I'd post this interesting fact because I remember watching this, but I don't remember that he changed poems in mid-stream!

For John F Kennedy's inauguration as President of the United States Robert Frost wrote a new poem entitled, "Dedication". Like many others he conceived the new president as young Lochinvar, the perfect combination of spirit and flesh, passion and toughness, poetry and reality:

"... The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour."

But the poet was old (87) and he couldn't see the words because of the sun's glare that bright, cold January day. The poem's newness to him and his unfamiliarity with and uncertainty about the way it went caused him to stumble uncertainly with his voice and tone and he gave up. Instead he fell back on an old one he knew perfectly, and in the most splendidly commanding of voices, recited it impeccably:

~ The Gift Outright ~

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

~ Robert Frost; 1874-1963 ~


  • Guest
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2009, 12:28 PM »
Here is the poem that he intended to read:

Dedication - The Complete Text

Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country'd be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
"New order of the ages" did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
'Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom's story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right devine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

Robert Frost

Offline A-FRIEND

  • Education Through History
  • Alley Host
  • *
  • Posts: 2826
    • n/a
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2009, 04:50 PM »
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.

Offline elise

  • Alley Cat Assistant
  • *
  • Posts: 4267
Re: Praise Song of the Day
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2009, 10:27 PM »
Maybe having a talent for teaching and writing poetry does not automatically mean you also have the talent for reading it aloud...dunno really, just thought I might throw that in the mix.  Remember too that it was freezing and windy...and a whole lot going on to distract her.   It seemed like she put most of her effort in enunciation...separatin g each word, and that definitely distracted her meaning.

So...yeah, what Bill said.

I felt it shelter to speak to you  ~Emily Dickinson