Thursday, January 22, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander on the Colbert Report

4 comments:

January said...

She was AWESOME! I'm so happy for Elizabeth and the attention poetry is receiving now. It won't last, but it's nice to see.

Andrew Shields said...

Thanks! As I just said on my blog (reposting the video), why couldn't she have read the poem as beautifully as she speaks?

~ said...

Hi January,
Yes, she was fantastic on Colbert and it's been fun to see poetry celebrated (and dissed). ;-)

She was great against Colbert!

*
Andrew-- you ask a good question and I guess I just try to imagine myself outside on that freezing DC day in gloves that made turning the page difficult, speaking on such a historical day after the first African-American president had just spoken and standing up in front of all those people-- I think if in the moment she could have done better or spoke stronger, she would have. I think if given the opportunity to recite it again, she'd be stronger.

why couldn't she have read the poem as beautifully as she speaks?
***But as I think about this, maybe this good question isn't a fair question because she might have had it not been so cold, she might have had it not been *that* inauguration, she might have had she been earlier in the ceremony.

The poem though, as I go back and read it and learn more about it (the "praise song" form from West Africa, seeing the lines breaks, etc) stands on its own.

Aretha Franklin just said on Larry King she was not happy with her performance (Aretha who has sang in front of millions many times)--she said the cold affected her voice.

I know we'd all like to think "we would have done better," but would we? Would we have knocked it out of the park or would be the batter who returned to the bench?

I think for someone who has never read (i'm assuming!) to that many people or performed for such an audience, she did the best she could that day with the weather, the cold, the excitement.

I lean to her defense because I could see myself in her place and it's too late to return to that moment (My God, even the Justice Roberts mucked up big time!) and while I guess there is a part of us that hoped this was the moment poetry would be embraced by all and others would see why we are so passionate about words, this world stage, this one poem--

that is a lot of pressure to put on one poet's shoulders.

So while I agree she came off better on Colbert (I've said similar things about Al Gore -- why can't he show that side of himself while he was debating!?) I still am proud of the job she did and thankful for what she wrote (not that you aren't too).

I think we all wanted the very best reaction to poetry here and we didn't get it. It's a bummer, but we move on. And hopefully, in the end, we have learned from this and also have the poem as a way to remember that spectacular day.

Thanks for your note, Andrew!

Maya Ganesan said...

This is fun. She was great!

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