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.

3 comments:

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.