Inauguration poet to weave historical spell





WASHINGTON -— Moments after Barack Obama delivers his first address as the new US president on Tuesday, a slight, bespectacled woman will take his place at the podium and read the world a poem.

For a spellbinding pause in time, Elizabeth Alexander, 46, will step out of the shadows of the rarified world of contemporary poetry and before millions in Washington and abroad deliver a poem she is composing for the occasion.

It will only be the fourth time in US history that a poet has been asked to pen something for a presidential inauguration, and the extraordinary commission has set the poetry world abuzz.

Some see it as a dawning of a new era where poetry and culture will take its place within the corridors of power, after eight years of what many say has been a cultural wasteland in the White House...

Alexander, a teacher of African-American studies at Yale University whose most recent book "America Sublime" was a finalist for the Pultizer Prize, has acknowleged the challenge facing her.

"The poem has a job to do. It has to speak to a tremendous historical occasion," she said in a statement released by the transition team.

"And that work is speaking to an incredibly diverse audience not only of Americans but of people around the world who are looking to America on this day to begin to think about the way forward."


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