Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander Poems

1.

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
...

The forsythia cascades quiver
No breeze blowing any where else?
...

I get off the IRT in front of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture after riding an early
Amtrak from Philly to get a hair cut at what used to be the Harlem "Y" barbershop. It gets me in at ten to
ten. Waiting, I eat fish cakes at the Pam Pam and listen to the ladies call out orders: bacon-biscuit twice,
scrambled scrambled fried, over easy, grits, country sausage on the side. Hugh is late. He shampoos me,
...

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
...

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
...

On suffering, which is real.
On the mouth that never closes,
...

Filene's department store near nineteen-fifty-three:
An Aunt Jemima floor display.
...

8.

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
...

We pull off
to a road shack
in Massachusetts
...

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
...

Looking at the photograph is somehow not
unbearable: My friends, two dead, one low
on T-cells, his white T-shirt an X-ray
...

My first week in Cambridge a car full of white boys
tried to run me off the road, and spit through the window,
open to ask directions. I was always asking directions
...

13.

I am the last woman off of the plane
that has crashed in a cornfield near Philly,
...

tra
dition
wanes
I read
...

According to Mister Hedges, the custodian
who called upon their parents
after young Otwiner and young Julia
...

Now is the time of year when bees are wild
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants
...

Sylvia Plath is setting my hair
on rollers made from orange-juice cans.
The hairdo is shaped like a pyre.
...

I've been eating
like a sultan
since I was two days old.
...

My head so big
they had to pry
...

Fish-man comes with trout and fresh crabs:
"Live! They live crabs! They live crabs!"
Bars called "Watutsi." "Pony-Tail."
...

Elizabeth Alexander Biography

Elizabeth Alexander (born May 30, 1962)is an American poet, essayist, playwright, and a university professor. Elizabeth Alexander was born in 1962 in Harlem, New York, and grew up in Washington, D.C. She received a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. from Boston University (where she studied with Derek Walcott), and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. Her collections of poetry include Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 (Graywolf Press, 2010); American Sublime (2005), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Antebellum Dream Book (2001); Body of Life (1996); and The Venus Hottentot (1990). Alexander's critical work appears in her essay collection, The Black Interior (Graywolf, 2004). She also edited The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks (Graywolf, 2005) and Love’s Instruments: Poems by Melvin Dixon (1995). Her poems, short stories, and critical writing have been widely published in such journals and periodicals as The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Callaloo, The Village Voice, The Women's Review of Books, and The Washington Post. Her work has been anthologized in over twenty collections, and in May of 1996, her verse play, Diva Studies, premiered at the Yale School of Drama. About her work, Rita Dove has said that Alexander's "poems bristle with the irresistible quality of a world seen fresh," and Clarence Major has also noted her "instinct for turning her profound cultural vision into one that illuminates universal experience." In 2007, Alexander was selected by Lucille Clifton, Stephen Dunn, and Jane Hirshfield to receive the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers. Her other honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the the Guggenheim Foundation, a Pushcart Prize, the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Chicago, and the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks. In 2009, she composed and recited “Praise Song for the Day” at President Barack Obama's first Presidential Inauguration. She has taught at Haverford College, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Smith College, where she was Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence, the first director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, and a member of the founding editorial collective for the feminist journal Meridians. She has served as a faculty member for Cave Canem Poetry Workshops, and has traveled extensively within the U.S. and abroad, giving poetry readings and lecturing on African American literature and culture. Alexander was a fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University, an Associate Professor in the school's African American Studies Department, and currently she is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.)

The Best Poem Of Elizabeth Alexander

Blues

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.

Elizabeth Alexander Comments

Brooklyn Parker 10 July 2018

Whoever made this website forgot to add Tending to the list of poems.

2 1 Reply
Sandra Dunn 06 June 2016

I saw you on Democracy Now. I love your poem honoring Mohammad Ali.

4 0 Reply

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