Reference-and-Education Professor Elizabeth Alexander had the challenging task of writing a poem for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She read that poem, Praise Song for the Day, aloud to millions of people on January 20, 2009. Alexander, an African-American 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 praise song. A praise song is a traditional form of African poetry, 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 Obamas African heritage. When looking at this poem, a good place to start is by asking whom or what is Alexanders poem praising? * the day As you might guess, Alexander is praising the day January 20, 2009, President Barack Obamas inauguration day. But this day is more than just another presidential inauguration. Alexander is celebrating the day that a black man can be.e the President of the United States. * 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 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: who laid the train tracks could refer to the many Chinese immigrants who worked to build the Central Pacific Railroad. Who [] picked the cotton likely refers to black slaves, whereas those who picked [] 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. * the 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. * every hand-lettered sign She goes on to celebrate the many people of today who have participated in the Obama campaign, making hand-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 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, Each day we go about our business, / walking past each other, catching each others / eyes or not. This line reminds us of how busy we can be.e with our tasks, text messages, or our own worlds. Walking 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 .mon thread as global citizens, we will cast a widening pool of light. At the end of the poem, Alexander uses a similar image of walking, but instead of walking past each other, she describes walking forward in that light. We move from walking past to walking forward, from the past to the future. The idea of walking forward indicates people walking in the same direction, in sync and united. This walking together has brought the country to the brink, [] the brim, [] the cusp of something altogether new, a time in American history in which anything can be made, any sentence begun. Alexander closes her praise song by celebrating Americas new direction. About the Poet: Elizabeth Alexander is a professor of African American Studies at Yale University. Barack Obamas selection of her was called perfect by the president of the Poetry Foundation, John Barr. In Barrs words, Alexander is one of the seminal voices in contemporary American poetry. Like Whitman before her, Alexander has always sought in her poems to celebrate Americas tremendous .mon spirit and edurance by acknowledging our differences and triumphs (source). About the Author: American history . It"’s a perfect aid for students and teachers seeking guidance with advance study, essays and writing papers. Its content is written by Ph.D. and Masters students from top universities, like Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, and Yale who have also taught at the high school and college levels. Article Published On: 相关的主题文章: