“Poetry, I tell my students, is idiosyncratic. Poetry is where we are ourselves…” begins poet, scholar, and educator Dr. Elizabeth Alexander. In this animated video from On Being’s excellent Poetry Film series, Dr. Alexander reads her poem “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe“.
Read along with the full poem below. You can also hear the audio without visuals at OnBeing.org:
Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said
“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”),
digging in the clam flats
for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.
Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?
Dr. Elizabeth Alexander’s work was shortlisted twice for Pulitzer Prizes. She has taught at Smith, Columbia, and Yale, was the 2009 inaugural poet (Praise Song for the Day), and is the president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest supporter of arts and humanities.
There’s a growing collection of poetry on TKSST, including two from inaugural poet Amanda Gorman:
• “Talking Gets Us There” with Amanda Gorman & PBS Kids
• ‘The Hill We Climb’ by Amanda Gorman
• The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry, animated
• We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks, a poem told with paper-cut puppetry
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