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Give Us a Poem

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) Give Us a Poem, 2007 Black PVC and white neon 75 5/8 × 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Glenn Ligon 2007.32

Initially created as a site-specific installation for The Studio Museum in Harlem’s lobby, Give Us a Poem demonstrates Glenn Ligon’s ability to infuse language with alternate meaning by translating it in bright neon. Ligon sourced the text from a speech Muhammad Ali made at Harvard University in 1975. When asked by a student to give the audience a poem, Ali replied “me, we,” in a simple but profound pairing that connects individual and collective experience.