Alexander named poet for inauguration

Elizabeth Alexander, 45, has been chosen to compose and present a poem during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. She’s the author of four books of poetry, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and a professor at Yale University.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Obama’s appreciation for the written word (both as a reader, and, of course, as a writer). This one speaks louder, however, as evidence of an appreciation of the arts.

This is the fourth inauguration in which poetry will have a home, after those of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Robert Frost read during Kennedy’s swearing-in, Maya Angelou composed for Clinton’s first term, and Arkansan Miller Fisher had a hand in kicking off Clinton’s second term.

My husband looked for policy statements on the arts from all the presidential candidates last year, and Obama was part of the large majority that lacked any kind of statement about the importance of the arts. Perhaps he’s started to think of creativity and the arts now?

Note: This Washington Post article makes it seem that poetry is a standard part of the inauguration throughout history, but that’s not true. The article makes a big deal of Bush not using poetry during his swearing-ins.

You can read a selection of Alexander’s poetry at her website, or listen to audio.


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