Words of Wisdom

Inaugural Poet Warms Up

Barack Obama isn’t the only one preparing for a big day tomorrow. Elizabeth Alexander, the inaugural poet, is gearing up to recite an original poem in front of the global audience. Alexander, a Yale professor, says she will be invoking the legacies of Walt Whitman and Gwendolyn Brooks, and that she hopes to reach a new audience through her poetry. “I don’t think of poetry as being quite so didactic, of telling people in that way,” she said. “I think of it as more of an offering, and there is a call and response in that. And part of it is that I’ll have an audience that is so large and dispersed that I won’t even know it—most of the people who will be watching will be watching it on TV—but that call and response will be implicit.”