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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Poetry and the Presidential Inauguration

By January 15, 2009

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Poetry came into the public eye numerous times during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election campaign (see the list of our postings below), and the poetry world has been buzzing with excitement and bustling with suggestions since the election, especially as it became evident that poetry would have a role to play in next Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony and celebration. While we’re all waiting for Elizabeth Alexander’s poem, let’s reread the few poems that have marked earlier Presidential inaugurations—amazing that there have been only three so far!

But there are always lots of “unofficial” poems rising up around a Presidential election and inauguration—Associated Press has gathereda sampling of poems written for Barack Obama this year by poets around the country, and it’s a diverse set of voices:

  • “Launch,” by Billy Collins
  • “The Land Was Never Ours,” by Julia Alvarez
  • “Making the News,” by Gary Soto
  • “The Procession,” by Yusef Komunyakaa
  • “The World Has Changed,” by Alice Walker
  • “Poem for Obama,” by David Lehman
  • “Plea to the Pres,” by Ted Newman
  • “Imagine Obama Talking to a Fool,” by Amiri Baraka
  • “Africa Goes for Obama!,” by Bob Holman

Our 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)
The Inaugural Poet Chosen: Elizabeth Alexander (December 2008)


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