Thursday, January 22, 2009

Alexander on Colbert

This is truly wonderful, but I have one question: why couldn't Elizabeth Alexander have read her poem the way she talks here? She talks so beautifully, so fluently, so smoothly, with wit and charm, but she read the poem so flatly. In my previous post, I talked about the lack of oratory in her presentation, and I suspected that few contemporary American poets would be able to be "oratorical" in the way Obama and Lowery were. But EA's speaking on the Colbert show suggests that she could well have presented her poem in an oratorically more satisfying way!


carolyn said...

Oooh good to know! I need to catch up with that one. It was a good poem and I too thought it could have been read better. Why get up in front of 100 million people and be boring, for any reason? Maybe she was just nervous. Maybe poetry isn't really cut out for such pomp and circumstance.

brian (baj) salchert said...

The word "boring" is starting to bother me, but I'm not going to detail why here. I do know I am able to change my emotional state instantly.

Thank you for the lively video.

Anonymous said...

You know, lots of contemporary poets read their work with poetry voice, and actually, I could tell EA had even turned her "poetry voice" way down! I thought she did well.

On a side note: I am saddened by all the sour grapes from the poetry community on her appearance and poem. It seems to me to counteract all the good Obama was doing by inviting her to write/read the poem.

Brian Campbell said...

I thought most of the criticisms were sour grapes, too. I would have read differently... I've never gone in for a's. a.period.between.each.word. But expectations are rather inflated here. Occasional poetry, done on demand for a situation like this is likely to be either high-flown b.s. or understated b.s., and I thought her poem was, while not a masterpiece, lyrical and distinguished and quite enjoyable.