Friday, September 14, 2012

Poetry Friday: Elizabeth Alexander

Yesterday I started listening to a podcast featuring Elizabeth Alexander (you can find the podcast here), and I heard her read her poem "Ars Poetica #100:I Believe." When I went to her website to look for the text, I also found another that I liked even better. It's called "African Leave-Taking Disorder." I grew up in Africa and have witnessed this "disorder" many times, and even developed it myself. Far from being a disorder, it's a wonderful feature of the deep, satisfying relationships that people have with each other in traditional African culture, where hurry is not valued, and people matter more than things or events.

The poem begins like this:

Ars Poetica #28: African Leave-Taking Disorder

The talk is good. The two friends linger
at the door. Urban crickets sing with them.

There is no after the supper and talk.
The talk is good. These two friends linger

at the door, half in, half out, ‘til one
decides to walk the other home. And so

they walk, more talk, the new doorstep, the
nightgowned wife who shakes her head and smiles

from the bedroom window as the men talk
in love and the crickets sing along.

You can read the rest here.

The only Elizabeth Alexander poem I had ever heard or read before this podcast was her inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day". When Obama was inaugurated, I searched out all the poems that have been read at inaugurations (there aren't many) and read them with my eighth graders. After listening to the lovely conversation in the podcast (I'm still not finished; I'm listening to the one that's an hour and a half long, and I just can't ride the exercise bike that long), I am sure I am going to be seeking out more of her work.

Here's today's roundup.

Have a great weekend. Here's hoping you develop "African leave-taking disorder," and spend some time in deep, satisfying conversation.


Diane Mayr said...

I heard Alexander read at the Boston Book Festival about 2 years ago. It was a great experience.

Joyce Ray said...

Ruth, "What if the mightiest word is love?" I love that line from "Praise Song for the Day." "African Leave-taking Disorder" is wonderful. It's hard to imagine this happening in American culture. Thanks for widening the horizon today.

Liz Steinglass said...

Love the African Leave-Taking Disorder. Love knowing there's a place where people matter and hurrying is not valued.

Tabatha said...

Hi Ruth,

I went to read the rest of the poem and got caught up in reading all of her poems! She has great voice. Thanks for bringing her to our attention.

Mary Lee said...

I agree -- rather than a DISorder, it seems like the most wonderful thing of all, to talk and talk and talk with a friend.

Linda B said...

I wonder if in the culture, did the poet use a phrase already common (leave-taking disorder) or did she create the words? It's a lovely image, the not wishing to part from a friend. I have a couple of friends that I feel like that with when we talk on the phone. If we were in a village, it would be different, wouldn't it? Thank you for sharing these, Ruth. I don't know this poet.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ruth. This is such a powerful poem. Alexander makes the talk and reluctance to leave it sound so appealing. I love the wife's little cameo!

Matsu said...

I have experienced this disorder, but didn't know what it was called until reading your post. Now, I know! It's great to have a friend that shares this same disorder. Really great!