Today, poet Richard Blanco joined the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, taking a national stage to recite what was the country’s fifth inaugural poem. President John F. Kennedy began the tradition, commissioning Frost’s "The Gift Outright" for his 1961 swearing in. Since then, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have decided to place poetry front and center on the inaugural dais. Here's the poem Richard Blanco read today:
Here at The Takeaway, we think poetry was built for the digital age, so we cooked up a crowd-sourced poetry project with noted poet Kwame Dawes. Last week, Dawes started our our crowd-sourced inaugural poem project with these lines: Say "nation." In the wake of quarrels, say "hope."
A People's Poem for the Inauguration
Say that freedom, both the blessing and right,
remain the provenance of open minds.
Acknowledge the dreams that birthed a great nation — say "freedom."
Speak it into action and watch our dreams reshape the future.
And heart in hand, for the sake of the young,
of the old,
of all those who
wade thru injustice's tide, say "freedom."
Say and shout and sing! Progress is a storm and our voices the thunder.
Say "peace" for the hearts of a nation's people, in times of grief.
Say one, say all. To abandon hope is to further the fall
Say "take my hand" to the downtrodden, the lost.
Sing harmonies that blend in a spectrum of love.
In the dark of failures, say "try"; encourage, persist to light.
Say friend, my hand for your strength, your eyes for my light as we forward together.
Say hope is ours.
Wash away morose pessimism and the failings of the nascent.
Remember our virtue; remember our lofty intent.
In the wake of the struggle, speak, so that together we all may speak courage.
Say "hope," eyes turned not to the gauzy sky
nor to the brassy gates of power
but to the frost-bitten grass beneath our feet.
I need to hear, again, those antiquated words
in this new light.
Special thanks to our contributors: Kwame Dawes, Ryan Christanson, Phoebe Saffold, Cathy Dee, TJ McKay, Andrew Belli, Kevin Linnehan, Darius Williams, Pete Ternes, Mark Fauntleroy, Sami Jenkis, Karin Storm Wood, Francesca Fernandes, Robert Aleman, John Stetson, Susanna King, Mary Slocum, Laura Duerr, Daniel Farias, Dale Dorlin, Brent Newsom, and Joy Jacobson.