In workshops, I do an exercise on the first day. Everyone free-writes (incl. me) for 10-15 min. Then, we count the number of words we've written. Then, we underline the words, phrases, sentences we like most, and cross out those we like least. The goal is to arrive at one half (or fewer) of the number of words of the original free-write.
Then I have them go home and make a poem out of what's left, and bring it to class. When they do, I have them count the number of words and - you guessed it - cut out half.
It seemed to me that Elizabeth Alexander could have benefited from this exercise.
In any case, I thought there were some sort of interesting phrases & lines in the poem, but that about half of it was pretty boring.
So, I rewrote it. [ahem.]
Praise the Day
We walk past, catching each other’s
eyes, or not, about to speak –
All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din.
Someone is repairing things that need it.
Someone makes music:
a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
We encounter each other in words
spiny or smooth, whispered, declaimed,
words to re-consider.
We want to find a place
where we will be safe.
Say it plain: many died for this day:
Sing the names of them that brought us here,
picked the cotton, or lettuce –
praise for every hand-lettered sign
under widening light at kitchen tables.
In today’s sharp sparkling winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun,
on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,