Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration thoughts

I was delighted to watch the inauguration with my students yesterday. We started out watching the feed (with the Facebook updates) but it froze and we switched over to TV instead. We found the Facebook updates interesting but a little unsettling; one student astutely noted that they must be filtering, because nothing nasty or "inappropriate" was being shown. It's sad that he assumed that it was being said, if not shown, and perhaps sadder that we all agreed.

We tuned in just as the invocation was wrapping up, and got to see and hear Aretha Franklin lead us in with song; class was ending just as Joseph Lowery was giving the benediction, and only one student stayed to the end of that, but I think she and I were both glad we did. Having grown up among preachers, whose everyday speech often incorporates snippets of scripture, familiar poetry, and well-loved hymns, I loved the way his prayer did the same thing.

I can't say I was as enthusiastic when I heard Elizabeth Alexander read her poem, but looking it over later I find myself moved by it, by its evocation of the everyday, its pleasure in precision, and its comprehensiveness. It's worth reading with the line and stanza breaks preserved. I like that both Alexander and Connecticut's Marilyn Nelson wrote praise songs for the day.

President Obama's speech also had that comprehensive reach, and I loved its inclusiveness. I was saddened to hear that the official Chinese press cut off their transmission of the speech right at this point: To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Finally, the children's lit link, from Rebecca Traister's report in on the festivities yesterday. "Happy Inauguration Day!" they said as they passed, greeting each other with a level of joyful familiarity typical of days on which Voldemort has been defeated.

Suddenly I'm back in that scene from the opening of the first HP novel, and I know just what it was like. Wow.


  1. A lot of poets just shouldn't be allowed to read their own poetry out loud.

    I once heard Louise Gluck whisper her poems to a large room full of people at the U of MD. Worst reading ever.

  2. Jeanne, Louise Gluck is always my example of a bad reader of her own work, too! (I heard her at UCLA years ago...and it was just awful.)