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Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration poem was a message of hope and a call to action, but was it memorable?

Elizabeth Alexander had a tough act to follow on Tuesday: President Barack Obama. The poet, Yale professor and Pulitzer Prize finalist read her specially commissioned Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration to the enormous crowd right after the new president delivered his inaugural address. Alexander was only the fourth poet to read at a presidential inauguration (Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and Miller Williams were the others), and her poem received mixed reviews.

We asked three local poets for their take on Alexander's poem and performance.

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It was very insightful. I appreciated the way she was able to cover almost the spans of time — a lot of our triumphs and a lot of our trials — and still weave it into a message of hope with the point that we have to do some work to bring all the things we hope for to fruition. I thought her delivery was a good complement to President Obama's (inaugural address), in the sense that it had the same serious and somber tone as his.

L.I.F.E., president of Black on Black Rhyme, Tampa.

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I'm not only pleased that he picked a real poet, but that he's friends with one. That's just great. I think the poem is good and that she read it well. It has some great images. There is a touch of the sermon toward the end, which is often the case with occasional poems. You're concerned with getting the message out there.

Peter Meinke, poet and professor emeritus of creative writing, Eckerd College.

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Ms. Alexander's poem was very conversational. … She takes the mundane to make it universal, she's making us look low to think high. … Some poems are written to be read with personal introspection. Some poems are written to be spoken in the great halls of the world. I don't know whether this poem is one of the latter.

James Tokley, poet laureate of Tampa.

Staff writer Dalia Colon contributed to this article.

Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration poem was a message of hope and a call to action, but was it memorable? 01/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 10:06pm]
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