Prepared Poets

The NYT looks at inaugurals and poets, and the work Elizabeth Alexander has cut out for herself:

She is going about making a poem for Mr. Obama, she said, by casting an eye back. “I have read the previous inaugural poems, as well as many others,” she said. “The ones that appeal to me have a sense of focus and a kind of gravitas, an ability to appeal to larger issues without getting corny.” One thing Ms. Alexander wants to do, she said, is speak clearly but artfully. “I don’t want the poem to talk down to some imagined audience,” she said. Among the poets she has been reading for guidance are Virgil, W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Is she prepared, I asked, for a Robert Frost moment? What if her manuscript catches fire or blows away? “I am going to have many copies of the poem tucked away,” she replied, laughing. “I really am. In a boot. I’m serious. I will have backups. I’m a mom.”

I'd never heard the Frost anecdote, but, boy, those few lines they quote from "Dedication" are stinkers.

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