- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, not a politician, but there’s a symmetry between her selection as inaugural poet and that of the president-elect’s choices for his inner circle of advisers.

They all come with impressive academic credentials and are more centrist than many expected.

Stephen Young, program director for the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, called her selection inspired.

“I think it’s a great choice. She’s a wonderful poet who has a deep understanding of history and the civil rights movement in this country,” said Mr. Young. “There are a lot of African-American poets writing out of victimhood, and her understanding is much broader than that.”

It’s hard to imagine, for example, Mrs. Alexander following the example of poet Maya Angelou, who took identity politics to new heights in her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the first presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton:

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,

The African, the Native American, the Sioux,

The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,

The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,

The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,

The Privileged, the Homeless, the Teacher.

Mrs. Alexander’s latest collection, “American Sublime,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was described as “sparkling with humanity and unexpected grace” by the American Library Association. Her poem “Emancipation” from that collection shows her to be more interested in the power of images than proclamations:

Corncob constellation,

oyster shell, drawstring pouch, dry bones.

Gris gris in the rafters.

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