Talking Volumes: Elizabeth Alexander on 'The Light of the World'

Author Elizabeth Alexander and Kerri Miller
Author Elizabeth Alexander and MPR News host Kerri Miller discuss Alexander's memoir, "The Light of the World," at Talking Volumes.
Thomas A. Campbell | MPR News

Elizabeth Alexander's words ushered in one of the most historic moments of modern times: the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Alexander read her poem, "Praise Song for the Day," to the crowds gathered on that chilly January day in 2009, as America's first black president was sworn in.

Her poem was at the center of a national celebration.

Three years later, she found herself engulfed in personal tragedy. Her husband of 16 years died suddenly of a heart attack.

But she responded in the same way: with poetry, with words.

Her memoir, "The Light of the World," describes her path through the grief. She joined MPR News host Kerri Miller for Talking Volumes, to discuss the book and what drives her to write.

"You can't lie to yourself, you can't make anything up," she said, describing her writing process after her husband's death. "The only thing that is remotely a comfort is being able to — in the shape of words — give your experiences a body that can keep it moving forward."

For the full Talking Volumes interview with Elizabeth Alexander, use the audio player above. Tickets are still available for the remaining 2016 Talking Volumes season.

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