where we are ourselves in poetry

“Poetry, I tell my students,/is idiosyncratic.  Poetry/is where we are ourselves . . .” – Elizabeth Alexander, “Ars Poetica #100:  I believe”

Poetry by Riccardo Cuppini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License
Poetry by Riccardo Cuppini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Where we are ourselves
is poetry.

Where I am myself
is in the ocean,

is in the bright wispy ribbons
of an orange winter sunset,

is in the pealing laugh of
a beloved daughter,

is in the fragrance of
soon-to-be daffodils,

is in the juicy crunch of
a leg of fried chicken,

is in the succinct working of
a crossword puzzle;

Where I am myself
is in the soft-purr of an
all-black kitten-cat,

is in the gurgling rush
of Ravenna creek
beside me,

is in the hard earthy
surface of brick.

Is poetry where we are
ourselves?

About this post

When I wrote this, I thought of you, my blogging  community.  Where are we when we are most ourselves?  In our blogs.  To you!

About the epigram (poetry fragment)

I often use a line or two from a poem to start my creative process.  You’ll see these epigrams at the top of some of my work.  I thought you’d like to know a little more about the poet whose poem I used for my epigram today.  She is an accomplished poet and Person of Letters, and I was not familiar with her work until I encountered her “Ars Poetica” poem this morning!

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet who was born in Harlem, New York, and grew up in Washington, D.C.  She has earned degrees from Yale and Boston University, and she received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.   She is the chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.  One of her books, American Sublime, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize.  Dr. Alexander composed and read a poem for President Barack Obama’s Presidential inaguration, “Praise Song for the Day,” which includes the lines “Say it plain: that many have died for this day./Sing the names of the dead who brought us here”.

“Alexander writes on a variety of subjects, most notably race and gender, politics and history, and motherhood” (from poetryfoundation.org).

5 thoughts on “where we are ourselves in poetry

  1. “Is poetry where we are ourselves?”
    I think so… even though we are not necessarily poets or when we are not writing poetry; there is always poetry in our lives and you can read it in our prose, too. 🙂
    I love this poem – you are yourself and this is you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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