“With Ears Wide Open” – Elizabeth Alexander Talks Poetry with E. Ethelbert Miller

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 5:50 am

“With Ears Wide Open” – Elizabeth Alexander Talks Poetry with E. Ethelbert Miller


One of my favorite moments in the video above occurs at around the 11-minute mark after Elizabeth Alexander recites “Praise Song for the Day,” the poem she penned for President Obama’s inauguration. In her recent interview with E. Ethelbert Miller (from “Black and Universal”) at The Aspen Institute, Miller asks if she sees parts she’d like to revise when encountering the poem now.

“No, you know me better than that! No. No. Noooo! Done is done! Or else you will go crazy.”

A few beats later she continues, “I think it’s important to be able to see who you were: aesthetically, creatively, emotionally — everything that goes into the poem at a particular moment in time. And to let that stand as a record. And to let development happen.”

I appreciate what Alexander is saying here because she’s offering an antidote to self-critical, never-satisfied perfectionism. There’s freedom and lightness in her approach. She can move forward with space and energy to generate new creative work without being freighted by regret.
We’ve had our eye on Elizabeth Alexander for a while as a possible conversation partner for Krista. She’s just released a retrospective collection, Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010. I hope we can share her warmth, intelligence, and poetry with our audience in the coming year.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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