It’s week two of National Poetry Month and wow, it’s already been a great time of reading and listening to great poetry. I had the extreme pleasure of attending the book launch for Voices from the Block: A Legacy of African-American Literature last weekend and enjoyed two entertaining spoken word poets. I also had a super time at the Writer’s Reception, sponsored by the Texas Writers Journal. I read poems, met new authors, and learned more about the Texas Writers Journal’s updated and expanded literary journal. And the fun continues in a few days when I attend Poetry Out Loud at Lucky Dog Books in Dallas (Oak Cliff). I am eagerly awaiting that event, but until that date arrives, I am content to get my poetry fix from reading (in some cases, re-reading) presidential inauguration poems.
If you watched or listened to the United States presidential inaugurations for President Barack Obama (2009 and 2013), you know that a poet participated in the swearing-in ceremonies. Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco are the two poets who stood at the podium before the nation sharing their words of hope, history and unity. They joined a short list of poets who either wrote a poem specific to the occasion and/or recited a previously written work to honor the incoming president. Other poets on the list include Robert Frost, who was the first to kick off the tradition in 1961 (John F. Kennedy), Maya Angelou (William Clinton), James Dickey (Jimmy Carter), and Miller Williams (Clinton).
Many of the presidential inauguration poems have been published (or re-published) as a solo piece in a gift book edition which includes beautiful leather binding and specially crafted paper. In honor of National Poetry Month, I encourage you to scour your local bookstore or resale shop for these editions. They make for special reading and are a nice collector’s item. The titles to look for are:
The Gift Outright – Frost
The Strength of Fields – Dickey
On the Pulse of Morning – Angelou
Of History and Hope – Williams
Praise Song for the Day, Praise Song for Struggle – Alexander
One Today – Blanco
Until next week, happy poetry reading and writing!