Q&A with Elizabeth Alexander

For a short while on Inauguration Day, a poet, not a President, will hold the world's attention. Alexander, Barack Obama's choice to compose and read a poem on the occasion of his swearing in, spoke to TIME about writing for the moment.

How did it feel to be asked by Obama to play such an important role in the Inauguration?
Overwhelming, humbling, joyful. What we have is his understanding that the arts do have a place in day-to-day life, that poetry can still us--that is, let us pause for a moment and, as we contemplate that careful, careful language, hopefully see...

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