A People's Poem for the Inaguration: Poets Respond

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Say 'nation.' In the wake of quarrels.  Say 'hope.'"

That original first line from poet Kwame Dawes, read on the program earlier this week, kicked off our crowd-sourced inaugural poetry project. 

Takeaway listeners have been chiming in with the subsequent lines of the poem on Twitter using the hashtag #prezpoem.

Elizabeth Alexander is chair of the African-American studies department at Yale University. She composed and delivered "Praise Song for the Day" for President Obama's 2009 inauguration -- and she's been watching listener-submitted lines come in.

Kwame Dawes is a poet and author of "Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems." He's been keeping track of the lines as they come in too. He put together his favorite lines to create a complete poem.

Here's Kwame's curated version (we'll have our own, with listeners recording their lines, soon):

Sing Nation by Kwame Dawes (with a special thanks to Robert, Laura, Phoebe, Buddy, Andrew, TJ, and Mark)

Say nation in the wake of quarrels; say, hope,

say peace for a nation’s heart;
say neighbour; say, what can I do? 
Doors will open. Together we must walk through.

Dream, neighbour; in the face of fear, 
dream mercy when darkness floods,
dream light to scatter the shadows.

At the dawn of uncertain tomorrows, 
pray change, pray progress for this union.

Shout forward in the silence after nightfall, 
Shout love in the dark of failures, 
shout try, as we move, as we persist into light.

Sing nation in the wake of sorrows, sing hope.


Elizabeth Alexander and Kwame Dawes

Produced by:

Mary Harris and Mythili Rao

Comments [3]

Judy Lieff from NYC

How about allowing for sign language poets to contribute to this wonderful project?
If you allow for video uploads or links to a youtube site - that would allow for full access.

There are terrific sign language poets in this nation - take a look:

Ayisha Knight on HBO's Def Poetry Jam - https://vimeo.com/2206707

Jan. 18 2013 06:20 PM
Moshe Feder from Flushing, NY

Congratulations, John. Usually, I wince when people on radio or TV say "hone in" when they meant "home in." But you're the first to make me do it by saying "hone in" when you meant "horn in."

Jan. 18 2013 03:46 PM
Mary Knowland from Dennis,MA

Mr. Hockenberry and Mr. Dawes,
THANK YOU !! for the poetic journey that began this week on "The Takeaway"!
This babyboomer believer in the Age of Aquarious was in tears the moment
Kwame Dawes read his line to inspire the poets of your audience. This white
middleclass grandmother has voted for and wept at the election(s) of President Obama. This woman who sends most everything by "snailmail"or uses a land line
telephone has hand written your poem-in-progress to read to all who will listen.This project is inspirational, empowering, and everso hopeful! Thank you!! Make sure President Obama receives a copy or recitation when you have your completed work. Excellent use of Social Media!Makes me want to tweet!

Jan. 18 2013 01:49 PM

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