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The Folger Spotlight

Poetic Pairings: Elizabeth Alexander and Rioja Alavesa

Shakespeare’s Sisters: Say Her Name celebrates the poetry of Black women in America. This virtual seminar and writing workshop for adults explores poets such as June Jordan, Ai, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Tracy K. Smith and others. From the Black Arts Movement to Cave Canem to recent Poet Laureates, these poets speak to the contemporary moment with many still alive and producing work.

We are pleased to bring you a special collaboration with DCanter wines, pairing a poem from the Shakespeare’s Sisters curriculum with a recommended wine each Monday of the seminar. Folger Poetry Coordinator and Shakespeare’s Sisters co-leader Teri Cross Davis provides context for the choices.

Poet of the week Elizabeth Alexander is best known for reading her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at the 2009 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study fellowship at Harvard University, the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers, and an Anisfield Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award. Her book American Sublime was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005. Alexander is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was a founding member of Cave Canem, and serves on the board of directors of the Pulitzer Prize.

by Elizabeth Alexander

Now is the time of year when bees are wild
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants
in the bright, late-September out-of-doors.
I have found their dried husks in my clothes.
They are dervishes because they are dying,
one last sting, a warm place to squeeze
a drop of venom or of honey.
After the stroke we thought would be her last
my grandmother came back, reared back and slapped
a nurse across the face. Then she stood up,
walked outside, and lay down in the snow.
Two years later there is no other way
to say, we are waiting. She is silent, light
as an empty hive, and she is breathing.

We recommend enjoying this poem alongside a glass of Anabasa Rioja Alavesa Tempranillo Carbonic Maceration 2020. The connection? A time for rebirth, renewal, a time to usher in a new way of being, which is what Beaujolais Nouveau process celebrates: a new way of being. Alexander’s poem recognizes that there is a time and a season for us all. Maybe there are moments too, in life that could use a new perspective, a new way of handling them to see what insight they yield.

Anabasa Rioja Alavesa Tempranillo Carbonic Maceration 2020

From: Rioja, Spain

Description: Similar to a Beaujolais Nouveau, this wine is full of red raspberry, blackberry, and a touch of banana, rounded out with refreshing acidity.

Pairs with: Enjoy this light-bodied, easy-drinking red with a slight chill alongside a turkey burger, arugula and cranberry salad, or poached salmon.

Did you know this Thursday, November 18th is Beaujolais Nouveau Day? Beaujolais is a region in southern Burgundy in France that is well-known for making fresh and fruity wines from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais Nouveau is a particular style of wine that is a result of the special fermentation process used, called carbonic maceration. Rather than crushing the grapes to release some juice in order for yeast to convert sugar into alcohol, the grapes are delicately handled so they remain whole while they undergo a different type of enzymatic conversion. This gives us a smooth, fruity wine that is delicious with a slight chill. The release of this wine each year is mandated by the French government to be 12:01 AM on the third Thursday of November, so in the meantime, try this Tempranillo from Anabasa in Rioja, Spain to experience a wine made the exact same way. The freshest red wine you can find that bucks the traditional fermentation process resulting in something new for you to experience. Cheers!—Beth Richman, DCanter


DCanter logoDCanter: A Wine Boutique is a wine retailer located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, specializing in sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from small producers around the world as well as fun, yet informative, wine education. Their selections are available in-store, online, or through a personalized wine shopping service known as Concierge by DCanter. Visit them at to learn more.

Missed out on Shakespeare’s Sisters? Make a plan to join us for our writing workshop with Victoria Chang taking place on December 1 from 7:30pm-9:30pm (ET). Call the box office at 202.544.7077 to find out more.