Friday, May 27, 2011

Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 by Elizabeth Alexander

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a collection of poems written by Elizabeth Alexander over the last 20 years. One of Ms. Alexander's poetry books was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize. She read her poem, "Praise Song for the Day," at Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. She has won a number of poetry awards and is chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale. So, obviously, smarter people than me think she is a great poet. It would take more chutzpah than I have, a simple, unlearned Amish boy, to criticize this book. I just know what I like. And I don't like this poetry.

I suppose the purpose of publishing a book of mostly previously-published poetry by a particular author is to show how the author has developed over the years. I will grant you that the latter poems appeal to me more than the early poems. (So, why not just leave out the early poems? Because I don't know what I'm talking about when I don't like these poems. They're great; they must be great because the experts have said so.) It's not that I hate all poetry. When I'm inaugurated as president, I want Julia Kasdorf or Rona Laban or David Wright to read one of their poems. Or, if they are busy, Billy Collins will do. Elizabeth Alexander? Meh.