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American Sublime: Poems

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  116 ratings  ·  13 reviews
A brilliant new collection by Elizabeth Alexander, whose "poems bristle with the irresistible quality of a world seen fresh" (Rita Dove, The Washington Post)

Too many people have seen too much
and lived to tell, or not tell, or tell
with their silent, patterned bodies,
their glass eyes, gone legs, flower-printed flesh . . .
-from "Notes From"

In her fourth remarkable collection,
Paperback, 96 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Graywolf Press
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A World of Verse by Christopher  ShieldsThe Collected Poems by W.B. YeatsThe Iliad/The Odyssey by HomerThe Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert FrostThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
103rd out of 342 books — 175 voters

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I don't care what anyone had to say. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration speech. I also loved this collection of poems. I zipped through them while riding the subway out to Brooklyn. Subways + poetry = what could be better?
There is no easy summation, but the closing lines from "Ars Poetica #100: I Believe" come close:
Poetry . . . / is the human voice, / and are we not of interest to each other?
Feb 07, 2012 T. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Some lovely lines here. In Five Elegies: "...The poet Agha Shahid Ali / met that disease and then like a rose / blown open faced his death and died / after asking, in the shape of a poem, / Why must we ever?"

In Ode: "...our bodies say / This is who we are, no, This is what / we have done and continue to do."

In Ars Poetica #1,002: Rally: "People are violent," / ... / ..."Poetry," / I screamed, "Poetry / changes none of that"

And in Ars Poetica #100: I Believe: "Poetry... / is not all love, love, l
Meghan Pinson
Elizabeth Alexander was the poet who read for President Obama's inauguration. I love this poem, and I'll give the book five stars on account of this one alone. All it takes is one.


The Dream That I Told My Mother-in-Law

In the room almost filled with our bed,
the small bedroom, the king-sized bed high up
and on casters so sometimes we would roll,
in the room in the corner of the corner
apartment on top of a hill so the bed would roll,
we felt as if we might break off and drift,
float, and become our
Mar 02, 2012 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
On American Sublime: There were highs and lows, ups and downs, in Elizabeth Alexander's fourth poetry collection (a Pulitzer Prize finalist). To be fair, I believe I would have gotten even more out of her erudite poems if I was less wired to information highway technology and had a slightly better than above average grasp of the specific complexities, narratives, and nuances of African American studies and the challenges of employing a historically imaginative and reconstructive poetics. The fol ...more
Paul Mirek
I dug Alexander's rhythmic cadence and most of the contemporary pieces here, but the majority of the historical poems (including a long series on the Amistad that takes up the last fifth of the book) left me feeling more more removed, rather than closer, to the human elements within.
She'll be reading at Barack Obama's inaugration!!! How could I not want to read her work? I loved this slim volume of poems. My favorite section was Amistad. I requested the movie from the library...I want to know more now. I'm looking forward to the inaugural poem more than ever now.
My favorite line of the entire collection, which is from “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe”: "Poetry (and now my voice is raising)// is not all love, love, love." YES!
This was one of the 2006 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Odes, Elegies, Ars Poetica, it is all in her book layered and rich with memory and history. It has many lessons on life we all can learn and relearn.
so far, it's o-k. the ars poetica section is tops. very sound-driven.
Artifice Magazine
I didn't listen to the Inaugural poem.
I didn't listen to the Inaugural poem.
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Approach to the subject 1 1 Nov 06, 2013 02:04PM  
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Elizabeth Alexander is a Quantrell Award-winning American poet, essayist, playwright, university professor, and scholar of African-American literature and culture. She teaches English language/literature, African-American literature, and gender studies at Yale University. Alexander was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard during the 2007-08 academic year.

Alexander's po
More about Elizabeth Alexander...
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