The eloquent Ta-Nehisi Coates on Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who will read at Barack Obama’s inauguration:
Elizabeth Alexander is going to present a poem at the inauguration. I don’t want to disrespect anyone here with what I’m about to say. But there is an interesting parallel, here again, in the Obama and Clinton selections. Maya Angelou is a very inspirational writer who, I think, has helped a lot of young women through some tough times.
But Elizabeth Alexander is a student, and dare I say, master of the craft. Her work is inspirational in a way that the Great Gatsby, or Mad Men is inspirational, in that it just says so much about who we are. When Clinton picked Maya Angelou it was revolutionary for a lot of young black kids in schools across the country–we had to study that poem in English class. Picking Alexander is a much more subtle move which I hope folks won’t miss. Put bluntly, the whole “competence aesthetic” has been extended to the poets also. I’m not dissing Clinton here, or giving undue credit to Obama — this is about the moment in history. So much has changed since then.
I had no idea who Alexander was or what she was about — now I am intrigued after following Coates’s instruction to read her most famous work, “The Venus Hottentot”, about an African woman who was made into a travelling exhibit in 19th century Europe.
And since I’m still on the topic of the inauguration, in case you’ve caught a whiff of the cup-sized controversy over who Obama has asked to give the invocation, I think Al Giordano, another great blogger in the ‘sphere, makes a strong case for a reality check: “You don’t get inclusion by calling for exclusion”.