Analysis of “Praise Song for the Day”

Posted: June 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Analysis of

“Praise Song for the Day”

By

Elizabeth Alexander

Writing by : me ( Basmah Al-Juhani)

The Poem””

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says,
Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light

Elizabeth Alexander

January 20,2009

Analysis

“Praise Song for the Day”  by Dr. Elizabeth Alexander is considered to be one of the poems described as “incredibly gifted”. And its writer is one of the only four poets who has been included at an inauguration for a US president. The poet –in her poem- drew a real and beautiful portrait of America in general and the everyday life of Americans now. As we go a long with each stanza we are going to see and enjoy every part of the portrait.

The poemhas a structure and style that is known within African literary circles as a “praise song”.  These praise songs are traditional African forms of poetry that use laudatory epithets (descriptive word-pictures or word-paintings)”.1  In choosing this kind of literary structure the poet is pointing out the African history within the American culture.  In the first stanza, the poet is giving a description of everyday life in America.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

As every citizen in US go to their work, they are passing each other and catching each other eyes , sometimes they don’t . Beside, the poet is giving a life image of the noise in the streets. Every Citizen is heading to his job, passing through streets which are full of noise. each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

the poet in this line is referring to the ancestors, to the people who came to US as immigrants from Africa, Europe and other parts of the world, in search of a better life.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says,
Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

Those immigrants left their homeland and chose to live in the US. They all together participate in creating the American Civilization. In the above four stanzas the poet is drawing a scene of everyday life of the citizens. The live of Americans, using simple words. “repairing the things in need of repair” the poet in this line pointing out the struggle and hardship of people who for America worked hard in creating this civilized and modern country. Again, the poet is sketching pictures of everyday life, a scene of a woman and her son waiting for the bus, a farmer considering the changing of the weather, a teacher at work.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

In those two stanzas, the poet is referring again to the Americans, (immigrants) who left their homelands, looking forward a better life their kids and family. They were eager to a future enhanced to the coming generations. ” I know there’s something better down the road”, indeed the poet is describing immigrants sought for a life in US, a life which they consider as better than the life they used to have in their homelands. Life of freedom of race or religion. “We walk into that which we cannot yet see” refer to the bravery of immigrants when they left everything behind and chose to live in America.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Those lines are so powerful and striking. As they refers clearly to African slavery age, and People, who died for this day. The poet is promoting her audience and readers to say it loudly and plain that many African slaves had died for this day and for the advancement of America. She is promoting her readers to sing the names of those dead immigrants who brought us here to this land. “Who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges” those slaves worked hard and struggled, laid the train tracks, raised the bridges. Picked the cotton and the lettuce. “brick by brick the glittering edifices, they would keep clean and work inside of.” Probably these two lines were the clearest in referring to the black African slaves who worked so hard and participated even by their souls in the modernization of America, yet their efforts were denied. And, by having Obama as a president of United States it’s a triumph and victory for the African people in the US, and emphasizing the role of African American citizens in the modernization of America. “praise song for struggle, praise struggle for the day” the poet is praising the struggle, praising the every hand-lettered sign of the people of America.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light

And, finally, after travelling through the American history, the poet is chose to conclude her poem with a call to humanity to live together in peace.  She is bidding people to love others as they love themselves, and not to harm or take no more than ones need. She is provoking her readers to spread the word of love. “In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.” She is referring to the occasion of  the inauguration. In this day anything can be made, dreams can come true; everything we are hoping for will become reality. “On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that light”.

The End.

References:

A- a news paper

1- Now Public : http://www.bukisa.com/articles/83909_elizabeth-alexanders-praise-song-for-the-day-analysis-1#ixzz0pnGcIYqQ

B- Sites:

www.bukisa.com

www.sparknote.com

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