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Chrishayden
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Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2009 - 10:51 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

This received from a brilliant agnostic lawyer/literati. (They do exist.) I hope it will be of interest, and others of you may respond and circulate. There are numerous comments today in LA Times, Chicago Tribune and Daily News, probably others where an article on the inaugural poem appeared.

My italics. I'm pumped!!!

Holla,

Ruth
-------------------------------------------------------------
Ahhhhhhdidn't think it was read very well A common problem for poets (Lord help me), although I think Elizabeth read extraordinarily well. I’ll tr y to figure out why, other than that I was able to follow her technique. Not all audiences have read a good deal of poetry, therefore do not have an “ear” trained to recognize devices/elements. Poets have “voice”; you can tell Coltrane from Dolphy, Handel from Bach, if you have listened to them enough. Readers of poetry are not numerous, a persistent dilemma. However, it is a devoted coterie, and to join, one might read at least the poets cited in my original email (Whitman, Yeats, etc. Throw in Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, June Jordan and early Baraka. It is easy to miss a lot when you read them, if you haven’t read earlier 20th century poets in English, and you wouldn’t want to do that.) To really update, see Harryette Mullen, Yusuf Komunyaaka, Cornelius Eady and Lucille Clifton (who recommended Elizabeth for inaugural reading). Will think of others. American poetry has arguably been post-racial for some time now. I fully realize the danger of this assertion, but only make it in recognition of my own synthesis -- and ya'll know I'm down. not sure as written here a poetic structure No such thing, necessarily. Free verse requires neither rhyme nor metric scheme. Blank verse requires only metric scheme. Denise Levertov (British/Russian/Jewish 1923-1947) discussed “organic form” which suggests the optimal form for a poem occurs spontaneously as it is written, preferably in one setting. I have found her theory useful, though I do count syllables. The initial thought lost itself -- the commonality, ending reference to song "walking" </strong>Note preposition: praise song for walking forward in that light.

A praise song, according to Britannia online is: one of the most widely used poetic forms in Africa; a series of laudatory epithets applied to gods by professional bards, men, animals, plants, and towns that capture the essence of the object being praised. Quite appropriate to the occasion, so it seems, and indeed commonly utilized. I don't know
Reading poetry not a rational process? One of those altered states things, perhaps. Do we actually know during meditation, or do we just experience? I didn't get it as spoken
Multiple readings/hearings are necessary to experience most poems. It reads better, but I think it lost connectivity from beginning to end -- not tied together, nor a flowing thought
The GENIUS of the poem is in its oppositions, posed thusly: All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din/each one of our ancestors on our tongues. We need to find a place where we are safe /we walk into that which we cannot yet see. The poet is relating unrelated ideas/images. In other words, one line is restated in terms of another. THIS IS METAPHOR, as in 1) Green tree agendin/Poor sinner stands atremblin (Sing Low, Sweet Chariot, Af Am Spiritual)
Literally, the tree is bending, the si nner is bending as the storm rages; a visual comparison between UNRELATED THINGS – AN ABSTRACT SYMBOLIC RELATIONSHIP, SUCH AS E=MC2OR a+b=c. THIS IS THE HIGHEST FUNCTION OF HUMAN COGNITION, AND OCCURS IN MODERN POETRY AND IN LYRICS CREATED BY AMERICAN SLAVES. THIS IS A VERY BIG DEAL. THIS IS PHYSICS. OUR ANCESTORS DID THIS WHILE WORKING 14 HOURS A DAY WITH NO LUNCH BREAK. 2) The last line (we walk into that which we cannot see) is reminiscent of II Corinthians 5:7: (For we walk by faith, not by sight). The poet has, by including this, grounded her work in African American spirituality. (The Obama’s appears to me to be highly spiritual.) but somber definitelyAu contraire; there are specific references in the poem that are quite joyous in their inference. 1) To resurrection (Obama as Malcolm): Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Here the poet does two things; firstly, ‘Make It Plain’ is the title of the PBS/American Experience documentary on Malcolm X by Orlando Bagwell. The phrases, “Say it plain” or “Make it plain” are customary call and response refrains in the black church. Resurrection is innately a good thing, even if only (for agnostics) as a concept. (Makes me quite happy, actually, but then my risk of burning for infinity is much higher than your own.) Again, African American spirituality is heightened. I’m sure Rick Warren could relate. 2) &nbs p; The first line of the last couplet asserts the infinite potential of humans and the infinite possibilities of human existence: In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. I love that the poet meshes this idea of infinite possibility with language. But then, I have a vested interest. I have loved reviewing your ideas and will circulate anonymously blog style. rmg
--- On Wed, 1/21/09, ruthm712@aol.com <ruthm712@aol.com> wrote:From: ruthm712@aol.com <ruthm712@aol.com>
Subject: each one of our ancestors on our tongues -- Whew!!!!
To: XXXXXXXX
Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009, 1:45 PMDear Elizabeth,

Indisputably canonical: Wallace Stevens conceptual, Walt Whitman colloquial, WB Yeats visionary, Malcolm X courageous (say it plain -- YES!!!), Gwen Brooks metaphoric elegiac cadence.

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.

Sublime language enthrallment. (Your very own.) Can't wait to teach this, further inhabit. Immensely moved and proud. Please be in touch.

Ehugs,

Ruth

Praise song for the day. 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.

=0 APraise 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.
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Cynique
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Posted on Sunday, January 25, 2009 - 11:02 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

When speaking to the masses on momentuous occasions, academics should keep it simple; specifically, poets should make their inaugural poems palatable for public consumption, not delectable for their professional peers and lofty intellectuals.
The only thing more elitist than Libby Alexander's poem, was Ruth Miriam Garnett's critique of the it.

An inaugural poem, like common citizens, should be trite and simple. There would be no aftermath of controversy and disappointment if a poetic offering went something like this:


Today we hail our incoming head of state
and, boy, is his responsibility great!
We are confident that he'll do his best,
and wish all his programs success.

We hope they'll be no more war,
that the ecomony will recover and soar.
We are grateful that God's on our side,
even if other countries think that we're snide.

Our foundling fathers were a great bunch of guys
who tried real hard to be wise.
What makes America the best of nations
is how it got rid of all those plantations.

So let's go forward with our heads held high,
and put our suppport behind this new guy.
Together we can't lose
because we know how to dodge shoes.
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Chrishayden
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 10:32 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Below an excerpt from an email discussion I posted on the poem

EUREKA!

Ruth:
What a difference a few days (and some out loud reading and re reading and scansion) make!
I had been privately disappointed with the Libbyverse (“Praisesong for the Day”) going so far as to state that it lacked “rhythm” and was my bete noire, which I call Stanziated Prose.
But the final test of a poem is reading it for oneself aloud (and getting the breaks)
I must admit, I like this more everytime I read it. I then broke it down—suggested linebreaks or breathbreaks, and found the rhythms—as well as the imagery, symbolism, subtleties (use of near rhyme an parallelism)
After a few readings, it begins to really rock.
Reminds me of the best of Robert Hayden

She might have thrown in some stuff for the groundlings (a few hard rhymes (“Even Yo mama/ voted for Obama”), som cussin’, some shoutouts for the people, but that is a personal preference.

My breaks—with no disrespect to the author, below



Praise song for the day.

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 in

APraise 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.
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Chrishayden
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 10:36 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The only thing more elitist than Libby Alexander's poem, was Ruth Miriam Garnett's critique of the it.

(If I were Ms's Alexander and Garnett, I might reply thusly.

You call me an elitist?

Is Michael Jordan an elitist?
Is Kurt Warner an elitist?
Is Muhammad Ali an elitist?
Is Barak Obama an elitist?

If winning is elitist
Then yea
I am an elitist.

They are professional poets and if that is a fault then so damn Homer, Shakespeare, Whitman and others nobody understands!

For myself I would have preferred David Banner or the Notorious BIG, by the way.

Get hip. Get the Norton Book of Modern Poetry and catch up to what has been happening since about oh, 1860
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Carey
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Username: Carey

Post Number: 1584
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 11:27 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hey Chris,

Picture this, you're standing in a boxing ring and your right hand is being raised high ...you are the CHAMP. Not that you just whooped anyone. It's that your mind caught a very important point.

Is being an elitist something a person has control over? Your examples where on spot. When I look at those who would call another an elitist, I tend to turn to them. I think the word is sometimes used to imply that those that have reached a higher ground are snubbing those below them. I don't feel that way.

On a side note, it's been said that if you are going to write a book, you should write about something you know. Also, if you are a speaker, it's important to know your audience. That being said, the author of the "poem" came with her "A" game. This may not have been her best work and some didn't like it or understand it but she gave it her best shoot. They didn't reach out to her for her to dumb it down.

Today, Chris, you are THE MAN!
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Cynique
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 12:47 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Oh puleeze. Poetry is abstract and aesthetic and it's not about winning or losing.

All the elitist examples cited by Chrishayden are exponents of intellectual pragmatism and physical prowess.
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Carey
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 01:09 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The brain is a muscle, baby. Poetry may be those things you mention and more, but we are not talking about the final product. We are talking about the individuals behind such. Those individuals that use their pragmatic minds and physical prowess (the muscle ...the mind), is the focus of Chris's post. Use it or you'll lose it.
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Cynique
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Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 02:15 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Well, obviously what you and Chrishayden are talking isn't what I am talking about. "Using it or losing it" has nothing to do with classical poetry being critiqued by a classical poet.

As usual, we are not on the same wave length.

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