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.


rdl said...

OMG, Crockhead, thank you for the wonderful compliment, really!!
ironically, last sept. in boston i went to a poetry reading during the book festival and this poet read and Obama was in town also. I chose the book/poetry event over seeing him. but oe of the other poets that read, edward hirsch, i know you would love - check him out.
again, thank you.

Patry Francis said...

I haven't read much of Alexander's work, but I certainly agree with you about Billy Collins and esp. RONA LABAN. Maybe the next inauguration?

PG said...

The title of this book kept haunting me: Crave Radiance. It's a great title. I wondered what the poems were like and so I Googled her. They're strongly African-American in content: Harlem, jazz, Watts Tower, slave ships, race, etc. The imagery is not something I probably would choose to study and ponder in depth. Like most people, I tend to like poetry that relates to my own identity and purpose. I can't help it: I think Allen Ginsberg is great. Alexander's poems remind me superficially of the movies of Tyler Perry -- there's a cultural gap that it takes an effort to appreciate.