“…and are we not of interest to each other?”
Elizabeth Alexander is among the most entrancing and spiritually invigorating poets of our time, and only the fourth poet in history to read at a U.S. presidential inauguration. Her recent memoir, The Light of the World, is one of the most breathtaking books on loss ever written. In her On Being conversation with Krista Tippett, Alexander reads the poem “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe” — perhaps the most beautiful meditation on poetry’s role in human life ever committed to words — found in her indispensable collection Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 (public library).
ARS POETICA #100: I BELIEVEPoetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetryis where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I'”),
digging in the clam flatsfor the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only wayto get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,and are we not of interest to each other?