Elisabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem was bad. She’s best when she holds back and condenses. Her prosaic poetry is close to prose, her scenes spare and strong and close to home. “Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire”. Wonderful! But the scenes were disjointed, and didn’t stand up to the type of repetition she used in her take on the African praise song. Listen:
There are much better ones. My favorite poem of hers:
oyster shell, drawstring pouch, dry bones.
Gris gris in the rafters.
Hoodoo in the sleeping nook.
Mojo in Linda Brent’s crawlspace.
Nineteenth century corncob cosmogram
set on the dirt floor, beneath the slant roof,
left intact the afternoon
that someone came and told those slaves
I’m thinking a lot about brevity these days. Attention spans are short. Make the most of that moment.