Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

By Elizabeth Alexander b. 1962 Elizabeth Alexander
Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Elizabeth Alexander, “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe” from American Sublime. Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Alexander. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

Source: American Sublime (Graywolf Press, 2005)

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Poet Elizabeth Alexander b. 1962

Subjects Activities, School & Learning, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Ars Poetica, Couplet

 Elizabeth  Alexander

Biography

Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, New York, but grew up in Washington, DC, the daughter of former United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman, Clifford Alexander Jr. She holds degrees from Yale, Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her PhD. Currently the chair of African American Studies at Yale, Alexander is a highly respected teacher and . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, School & Learning, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Ars Poetica, Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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