Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander's Inauguration Poem: Praise Song for A Day

Here is a video of the Inaugural poem read yesterday for Barack Obama by poet, Elizabeth Alexander. I was glued to the TV watching her read this beautiful and poignant poem. Here is the complete transcript of, Praise Song for the Day, from The New York Times.

Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of 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.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.


  1. I printed the poem out yesterday and it is now tacked to my office door. It's just beautiful.

  2. I was teary eyed through the whole thing! Especially at the end of President Obama's speech. This is beautiful and like Ti I'm going to print it out and paste it into my journal.

    Lovely post and thank you!

  3. Thanks for posting this. I didn't get to hear the poem on Tuesday and enjoyed reading it today. The last two lines are beautiful.

    Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

  4. The sentiments are wonderful but that is not a poem. I speak as a poet. Poetry is a difficult and complicated discipline and it doesn't always have to rhyme but just writing prose and calling it a poem, which is done more than less these days, drives me crazy.

  5. Ti-What a great idea!

    Staci-I felt the same way about the inauguration. It was an emotional day and very inspiring.
    I like your idea of adding it to your journal!

    Kim-I think that it helps to listen and read the poem to get the full effect.

    Candy-I understand that there is some criticism of her poem as it is not lyrical. I appreciated the uniqueness of her poem and still consider it a true poem. Poetry is fairly diverse.

  6. I thought the poem was really moving. Thanks for typing it out. I would count it as poetry, but I'm not a poet!


Thanks for visiting and sharing a comment!