Will a Poet Read at Obama's Inauguration?

by Staff

Kennedy chose Robert Frost in 1961. Carter was joined by James Dickey in 1977. Clinton invited Maya Angelou in 1993, and she was followed, four years later, by Miller Williams. A president is not obligated to have a poet read at his inauguration (indeed, a poetless George W. Bush was swarn into office in 2001, a decision that David Lehman in Salon called "a bleak omen of his administration's attitude toward culture"). But Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric and eloquent speaking style that captivated millions during his long campaign has some wondering if he will invite a poet to read a little something next January.

More than one blogger has suggested poet laureate Kay Ryan could get the call. It's doubtful that Obama would invite Angelou for a repeat performance, but the final stanza of her 1993 poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," dovetails nicely with Obama's message of hope:

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Do you think Obama will invite a poet to read at his inauguration? If so, who will it be? Let us know by posting a comment below.


What If...

What if it could be Ntozake Shange?

Inauguration poet: Robert Bly

Robert Bly would be an excellent inauguration poet. His whole career since the war in Vietnam would make such a choice appropriate. And if not Robert Bly, then Galway Kinnell or Naomi Shihab Nye.

Obama poet/Clayton Eshleman

Clayton Eshleman would be ideal! A little Cro-mag mind to keep us grounded: "What glints are the ingot backs of snails, / fertilizing lore perhaps to be used, / whose curving walls are loaded with / the root history of our plasmic halo."

Toni Morrison

Although not a poet, Toni Morrison, I think, would be a good pick. Song of Solomon is one of Obama's favorite books. Plus no one has talked about race in the same manner as her accept, of course, the new President Elect.