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For Immediate Release

Poetry Foundation Applauds Poetry’s Place in Inaugural Program

Barr Calls Selection of Poet Elizabeth Alexander “Perfect”
December 18th, 2008

CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation is delighted that poet and professor of African American Studies Elizabeth Alexander will read a poem at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. “Her selection affirms poetry’s central place in the soul of our country. She is a perfect choice,” said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation. “Alexander’s is one of the seminal voices in contemporary American poetry. Like Whitman before her, Alexander has always sought in her poetry to celebrate America’s tremendous common spirit and endurance by acknowledging our differences and triumphs.”

The Poetry Foundation shares with President-elect Obama not only Chicago as a hometown, but also his interest in bringing poetry back into public life. “Whether at the inauguration or in readings at the White House, poetry will enrich the quality of public dialogue and help to unify the country,” noted Barr. “Poetry is where people go when they need to share the highs and lows in life; it will be one of the many tools the President-elect uses to lead the nation.”

In a Poetry Foundation “Poetry Off the Shelf” podcast (release date:11.25.08) titled “Poets in the Age of Obama,” Alexander said of President-elect Obama, “not only is this someone who takes care with his language, not only is this someone who is evidently a thinker . . . but also, this is someone who appears to care about poetry itself. As many people have noted, he was photographed three days after the election carrying Derek Walcott’s Collected Poems. I mean, the inbox went wild!”

Listen to the podcast at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=643

For comment or questions, please contact: Anne Halsey | Poetry Foundation | Media Director | 312.799.8016 | ahalsey@poetryfoundation.org| www.poetryfoundation.org

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary foundations in the world, is committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems by virtually every significant poet of the last century.


By Elizabeth Alexander
(First published in Poetry, April 1992)

We pull off
to a road shack
in Massachusetts
to watch men walk

on the moon. We did
the same thing
for three two one
blast off, and now

we watch the same men
bounce in and out
of craters. I want
a Coke and a hamburger.

Because the men
are walking on the moon
which is now irrefutably
not green, not cheese,

not a shiny dime floating
in a cold blue,
the way I’d thought,
the road shack people don’t

notice we are a black
family not from there,
the way it mostly goes.
This talking through

static, bounces in space-
boots, tethered
to cords is much
stranger, stranger

even than we are.


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