Friday, January 23, 2009

Working on Jeffery Callaham's release of fine art giclee prints and postcards--a new series called "ALL ABOUT LOVE". Go to his site for more information...soooon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Poem For the Inauguration

"Praise song for the day" by Dr. Elizabeth Alexander.

This is a link to The New York Times posting of the poem.

Emotions are worn on the sleeves of all people who attended today's presidential inauguration. People were seen crying openly, some saying that they needed to share this day with a community; everyone has high hopes and expectations of a man who seems to be kind, caring, intelligent and ready to help heal his country--our country.

With such emotions and expectations in full bloom, it would be difficult for most people to follow the new president's speech with a meaningful and inspirational poem. Ms. Alexander stood bravely, took time to compose herself and did her best.

I was disappointed in the reading, but I imagine that she was working hard to fight back the emotions that we've all been feeling AND the emotions of having something to say about this particular day. Her delivery and voice did not have the POWER to deliver what we all expected. Certainly, many others have the voice and the presence that you don't learn, but inherit in a gene, to have read this with greater effect, but, brava, Ms. Alexander, for the courage to read! I could not have done it.

The poem? It reminds me of the introduction to James Agee's A Death in the Family, his essay, "Knoxville: Summer of 1915", which was also set to music and soprano voice by American composer, Samuel Barber. Barber's essay is an all-time favourite of mine and, with my ear, it reads like a poem, which is perhaps why it seemed appropriate to set to music. Ms. Alexander's poem brings Agee's essay to mind in that it speaks to the simple things in life, the every-day-taken-for-granted chores and activities, and the connection to one another that we feel in our daily doing of these tasks.

To my ear, "Praise song for the day" presents us with this simple stuff that we are all familiar with; simple words that we can all recognize; and a simple but moving message that we can all appreciate.

A great poem? No, I don't think so.

Appropriate for the day and for the way people all over our country feel? Yes, probably so.

See what you think. James Agee's essay and introduction for his book follows.

We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.

...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt: a loud auto: a quiet auto: people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard, and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squaring with clowns in hueless amber. A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping; belling and starting, stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter; fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.
Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.
Low in the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes...

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.
The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there.…They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,...with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.