Imagine getting the toughest homework assignment in the world: write the one poem that millions and millions of people are going to hear and read… That’s the assignment poet Elizabeth Alexander was given shortly before Obama’s inauguration. She read the resulting poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” during Obama’s inauguration, and indeed millions and millions across the globe bore witness. That poem, as well as selections from five previous collections of poems and 19 new pieces by Alexander, will appear in her upcoming book, Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems, coming this October from Graywolf.
The galley recently landed in the PW office, and we are excited–so excited that we’ll be running a profile of Alexander soon in which we’ll ask what it felt like to get that assignment from the soon-to-be-President, both a poet’s dream and, we’d imagine, nightmare (if writing regular poems that almost nobody reads makes poets insecure, imagine how writing this one must have felt!).
Alexander’s poems are simultaneously accessible and challenging–the former because they’re mostly case in a kind of twangy plain speech; the latter because they constantly ask touch questions and make unsettling observations about the lives of African Americans across this country’s history.
Even if you don’t read too much poetry, this is a book you’ll want to read. Certainly it will be a very big seller as poetry books go.