January 20, 2009

Review of the Barack Obama inaugural poem Praise Song for the Day written and read by Elizabeth Alexander

A review of the Barack Obama inaugural poem Praise Song for the Day written and read by Elizabeth Alexander.

In a word: mediocre. While I love a poem filled with descriptive images, Alexander chose unimaginative cliches to show America. She presented no nuance, no color, nothing that is more than a prosaic poem not fit for a high school talent contest.

She looked for meaning, then scraped it clean of impact and influence before committing her idea to paper.

Who or what is she praising? A day? The definition of praise here is uniformly unpointed, as a day has no power. If the day has power, then it becomes a god, with a kind of omnipotent power.

"A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."" So what? Farmers do that. Teachers do that. She neither tells us something new, nor gives us insight about their action.

Her attempt to summon the spirit of Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman fails with, "Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks..." as her song has no notes.

She suggests, "Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."" Is she suggesting others do not want to live by that, living entirely selfishly? That's hardly an Obaminian thought.

"Love that casts a widening pool of light." Love, here, is a living entity, after she tries to explain what love looks like in vague terms.

Praise changes from a thing to an action, clunking on the ground as the listener hums the platonic, monotonous drumbeat, "On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light."

Her reading was blase, coming across like a faculty reading at a community college. She is no Robert Frost or Maya Angelou. Delivering her poem with a tone as cold as the Washington DC air she stood in, listeners suffered with an insipid interlude contrasting to Barack Obama's excellent vocal power. Each word comes out forced, reminding me of bad coffeehouse readings in college with Jack Kerouac groupies wish they were as deep as William Carlos Williams.

Listen below.



Read the poem here: Praise Song for the Day

Read Robert Frost's poem as read at John F Kennedy's inauguration.

~ The Gift Outright ~

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Praise Song for the Day: Inaugural poem: by Elizabeth Alexander

Praise Song for the Day
Inaugural poem
by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

January 11, 2009

Nothing Says Love Like a Dirt Devil: review: Dirt Devil 08220 Scorpion Quick Flip Vacuum

Nothing Says Love Like a Dirt Devil
Dirt Devil 08220 Scorpion Quick Flip Vacuum

Every evening of romance should start with the whir of a Dirt Devil. Woo your love with well-dusted crevices, blown into history by the strong suction into the sturdy plastic canister. Draw her nearer breathing cleanly her perfume and not bunnies from a lost rabbit dust herd. Notice her smile without the gray cloud of loneliness or smoky dried dirt flung up from dancing in all corners.

This is why you need a Dirt Devil. Or, if the joy of a well-vacuumed home, carefully cleaned at the baseboard level, is enough, know the Dirt Devil is the tool for the job. Cordless, with the crevice device to reach into tiny places, it will clean where an ordinary vacuum cannot. May your clean home reach into her heart.

--Brockeim