'are we not of interest to each other?'

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Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

by Elizabeth Alexander


Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

by Elizabeth Alexander


Ars Poetica #100: I Believe © 2005 by Elizabeth Alexander, first appeared in American Sublime, published by Graywolf Press, St. Paul, MN, and is used with the permission of Elizabeth Alexander.


Poem as Friend to John 

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Ars Poetica #100: I Believeby Elizabeth Alexander

In this episode of our podcast, you will hear John talking about the poem that has been a friend to him: ’Ars Poetica 100: I Believe' by Elizabeth Alexander.

We are delighted to feature 'Ars Poetica 100: I Believe' in this episode and would like to thank Elizabeth Alexander and Faith Childs Literary Agency for granting us permission to use her poem in this way. Do visit them for further inspiration and to find out more about Elizabeth and her work:


John visited The Poetry Exchange at Greyfriars Chapel in Canterbury, as part of Wise Words Festival. We’re very grateful to Wise Words for hosting The Poetry Exchange. Thanks also to Spread The Word for their continued support of the project.


John is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Lesley Bennett and Michael Shaeffer.


'Ars Poetica #100: I Believe' is read by Michael Shaeffer.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.