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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Poetry in the White House

By December 8, 2008

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Barack Obama is not the first American Poet-President. The Atlantic magazine published a poem penned by that other President from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, a “rollicking ballad” called “The Bear Hunt”:

from The Atlantic:
Obama’s Poetic Predecessor,” by David Barber
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.... Asked in his first post-election press conference whom he’s been reading to prepare to take office, Obama replied, without skipping a beat: Lincoln. Prodded in subsequent sit-down interviews about which of his predecessors were most on his mind, Obama has responded on cue: Lincoln.... the harmonic convergences between a pair of lanky lawyers from Illinois renowned for unmatched eloquence on the stump are not to be denied, and you’d have to be completely tone-deaf to what Lincoln called ‘the mystic chords of memory’ to be unmoved by the poetic justice of the country’s first African-American president channeling the spirit of the iconic chief executive who signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation.”

And while Obama may not have time or inclination to pen any more poems himself during his term as President, he made it clear in his Sunday interview on Meet the Press that he intends to invite poets (and artists and scientists) into the White House:

from The Washington Times:
President-elect wants to open White House to artists, scientists, poets,” by Christina Bellantoni
“He said he would like to invite jazz and classical musicians and have poetry readings in the White House.... he and his wife, Michelle Obama, want to ‘open up the White House and remind people this is the people’s house.’”

Previous notes about poetry on the path to the White House:
The Intersection of Politics and Autobiography in Poetry, Obama’s poetry (March 2007)
Harold Bloom comments on Barack Obama’s poems (June 2007)
Poetry vs. Prose in the Presidential Campaign? (February 2008)—This one has a poll asking “Would you vote for a poet for President?” Stop in and see how our readers voted.
Barack Obama’s Poem Now a Video (July 2008)
Found Poetry on the Campaign Trail, Sarah Palin’s statements made into poetry by Hart Seely (October 2008)
Who should be the inaugural poet for President-elect Obama? (November 2008)—Our readers offered names of the poets they would have liked to hear from on Inauguration Day...

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