“I ask questions relatively often in poems and I ask them because I don't know the answer.” - Elizabeth Alexander
What is the role of poetry in the midst of difficulty?
On episode 062, Paul Holdengräber is joined by poet, scholar, and president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Elizabeth Alexander. They discuss the importance of art, and in particular, how poetry can serve as a place to bring our deepest questions, even in the midst of trial.
Elizabeth Alexander – poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate – is president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education. Dr. Alexander has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board, and co-designed the Art for Justice Fund. Notably, Alexander composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, and is author or co-author of fourteen books. Her book of poems, American Sublime, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2006, and her memoir, The Light of the World, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 2015.
The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander (The New Yorker, 2020)