Add new comment

When listening to this interview with Elizabeth Alexander, one point that struck me was when Alexander said “I didn’t say who I was or what I was doing or ask for their attention. The poem asked for their attention inherently” when speaking about dress rehearsal for the presidential inauguration. The concept of a poem asking for an audience’s attention is something that I had never really thought about before. If a poem asks for one’s attention, it must connect deeply with a person on a subconscious level. I have never had the experience of being called by a written poem to listen to it, but I can only imagine how it might feel to be called to listen. Even though I know that songs are basically poetry put to musical notes, I have felt called to listen to music rather than spoken word. Sometimes I will listen to the radio in the car and hear a song that catches my attention immediately. Part of this could be the beat, but usually the first thing that I consciously notice about songs is the lyrics. If I begin to listen, I cannot really take my mind off of the lyrics until it’s over. It’s a very cool experience, and I’m sure the experience of being called to listen to spoken poetry is very similar.
Another prominent point that Alexander spoke on that made me think is the concept of poetry as a luxury. I want to rephrase the saying that poetry is not a luxury by saying it is a universal luxury. Poetry is a way of expressing feelings and not just a way to be creative and rhyme words on a page. It is more like writing a song to bring to life rather than a couple paragraphs of prose. Everyone is entitled to express his or her feelings. I think about poetry being a luxury, and I think about how much poetry would not be in existence if it were. Some of the best poetry comes from individuals who have a random spur of creativity, and if people couldn’t just do that, a lot of poetry would not have even been written. It is a curious thing to think about.
Discussing poetry being a product of creativity leads me to wonder what actually makes a poem a poem. In my poetry class this semester, we read and discussed a translation of a poem written by an ancient Greek poet. The poem was seven lines, but only one could be read and translated. It read “in a thin voice.” Whether this can be really called a poem was discussed during class, and it was one of the most interesting discussions that took place throughout the semester. Some people seemed to believe that it was and some believed that there wasn’t enough to classify it as a poem. I was not sure where to stand on the issue. Poetry has an objective definition and it varies from person to person, but I still am not sure what that definition is for me. It’s something to think about. It was one of the conversations I will still think about after the class ends.
It seems fit to conclude with a discussion of Dr. Alexander’s reading of “One Week Later in the Strange,” since she also concluded the interview with it. This poem gives the sense of a conclusion and a new beginning. Just as the interview concludes with this sense of a new beginning, the interview has also begun a new way of thinking about some things for me. Thinking about poetry as a universal luxury puts a new light on how much meaning poetry has in the world.