Last week the President-elect announced that poet Elizabeth Alexander would read at the Inauguration on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009. Alexander joins an illustrious, but small number of poets who have stood near presidents on their first day in office, including Robert Frost who composed “Dedication” for John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration in 1961, but when the sun made it hard for him to read it and a space heater ignited near the podium, he recited “A Gift Outright,” which he knew by heart.
Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of the Morning” at Bill Clinton’s swearing-in ceremony in 1993. At Clinton’s second Inauguration, Arkansas poet Miller Williams, the father of Grammy-award winner Lucinda Williams, read “Of History and Hope.”
Alexander, a Yale professor and Pulitzer-Prize finalist, is the author of four books of poetry as well as a book of essays. She is also a scholar of African-American literature and culture and has read her poetry and essays in the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean and South America and published them in numerous journals.
To sample her work, check out these collections of Alexander’s poetry:
Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color
Antebellum Dream Book
If you were to choose a poet to read at the Inauguration, who would it be?
All Fairfax County Public Library branches will be closed from 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24 through Friday Dec. 26, 2008, and from 5 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 31, 2009, through Friday Jan. 2, 2009 for the New Year’s holiday and the furlough day for county employees.