Help Us Write a People's Poem for the Inauguration!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 06:15 AM

The Washington Monument on Inauguration Day, 2009 The Washington Monument on Inauguration Day, 2009 (alextorrenegra/flickr)

On January 21st, poet Richard Blanco will join the likes of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, taking a national stage to recite what will be 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. 

At The Takeaway, we think poetry was built for the digital age — and this inauguration could use a People’s Poem. So we invited noted poet Kwame Dawes to start us off with a first line — and we want you to be our co-authors! It’s a grand experiment — and here’s how you can make your voice heard:

Noted poet Kwame Dawes (@kwamedawes) has given us his first line

    Say “nation.” In the wake of quarrels, say “hope”

    Tweet us back (we're @thetakeaway) with the line you’d write next. Always tweet with the hashtag #prezpoem — that way we’ll know what you’ve written — and so will everyone else.

    Keep an eye on that #prezpoem hashtag – that way, you can use others’ tweets as your inspiration. If you want your line to be paired with someone else’s, just include their twitter handle in your tweet.

      Later in the week, Kwame Dawes will join us to talk about his favorite lines. We’ll curate our own favorite contributions to make a listener-supported People's Poem.

      Finally, a big thanks to our affiliate, WLRN. Their experiment with Junot Diaz during the Miami Book Fair International in November inspired us.

      Produced by:

      Mary Harris


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      Comments [35]

      Kate from Washington Heights

      Say "Good morning."
      We begin again.

      Jan. 20 2013 10:38 PM
      Ummerday from Salt Lake City, Utah

      #prezpoem, In the throes of the election, the dirt on a semi trailer door says, "Viva Obama." That is hope.

      Jan. 20 2013 11:17 AM
      Karen Jackson Holzhauer from Detroit

      Say nation for amber waves of consciousness, take root for peace to sow, give voice to dreams America , say hope in trust we grow

      Jan. 19 2013 02:43 AM
      Lauren Jones

      Say vision. Say awake. Awake to the goodness of our work. Awake in our gentleness. Awake to our breath to make of ourselves a light.

      Jan. 18 2013 07:32 PM
      Toni Alam from Miami, Fl

      Say, Now is the season,
      Say Peace,
      Say Prosperity,
      Say compromise with reason.

      Jan. 18 2013 02:37 PM
      Denise Spielman from Portland, OR

      I listen, in the despair of my separation, to the excitement of building a poem for the upcoming inauguration. Thousands upon thousands of us - intelligent, passionate and loyal listeners, roiling in the morass of imposed poverty - left out, once again, because we cannot afford a smartphone with internet access. How can this vaunted paean from "the people" be authentic, when only one million of the 311,591,917 Americans have access to Twitter? There is no joy in Twitterville, when we, the unemployed, the impoverished - we mighty 47% - have been struck out? Because I have no access to the single method you demand, am I less an American? Does my heart beat less proudly with patriotic pride? Enduring the anguish that even NPR - the peoples' only hope for free and unbiased information - now imposes, my spirit is crushed because I thought NPR was the antithesis of elitism; now I know it is not.

      Jan. 18 2013 02:19 PM
      MaryElizabeth McIlvane from Altamonte Springs, FL

      What aaaaakwame read today is exquiste and powerful. I hope you will place the words he said on the website. They echo a prayer I just placed on the National Cathedral's national prayer from the people for the Tuesday, January 22 Prayer Service for our country.

      Jan. 18 2013 01:04 PM
      tanmeet sethi

      Say Light, in the wake of darkness, may it always prevail.
      Say Hope, in the midst of fear, may it always find its way.
      Say Grace, may it always fall upon our path, wherever it may lead...

      Jan. 17 2013 06:38 PM
      oscar from ny

      Say nation, obey our decrees and commands and lets hope our children follow and obey even better..

      Jan. 17 2013 05:43 PM
      Becky Nelson

      Say 'Reach'
      Breath deep the spirits of those who walked before
      Breath out the wisdoms of our ancient memories
      And guided by our chants
      We cross the great divide
      To join in vibrant symphony

      Jan. 17 2013 05:03 PM
      Abby from da Vinci arts middle school

      Say "community" meaning love and spirt abound to gather together.
      Cry, be happy,fall, and rise together as one, as a community.
      We are a community and we work together.
      We are a machine, if one cog stops working, we all stop working.
      We need stop, mend the kink, and we start working again.
      Think of us as one. We rise and fall together.
      We shed tears of happiness and tears of sadness together because a friends loss is our loss.

      Think of everyone as an equal.
      The people with small voices should be heard and be counted just as equally.

      Jan. 17 2013 04:02 PM
      Irene Haigerty from daVinci arts middleschool

      Be "brave". In the face of danger, say "courage".

      Say "united". In our country, we are "united".

      Say "freedom". When people hurt, say "help".

      Jan. 17 2013 03:46 PM
      Scouten Christensen from Portland

      Say "dream" and remember the people who got us to where we are. Say " destiny"

      Jan. 17 2013 03:46 PM
      Niko from Portland, OR

      Say "future." In this ugly time of war and violence, say "humanity"

      Jan. 17 2013 03:44 PM
      Lindsey from Portland, Oregon

      Say "Freedom" in the face of slavery. Say "Justice" In the name of America.

      Say "Love" in the hope of kindness everlasting. Say "Liberty" In the name of Glory.

      Say "Together" in our fight for libery. Say "Friendship" in the face of anger.

      Say "Courage" in the face of cowardice. Say "Unite" in the hope of a true U.S.A.

      Jan. 17 2013 03:42 PM
      Scouten Christensen from Portland

      Say "love" for we cannot prosper without it.

      Say "human" for while we have our differences we are all equal in worth.

      Say "future" and imagine your children living in it.

      Jan. 17 2013 03:40 PM
      finnian.c.peck from davince middle school portland OR

      say love in the life say freedom

      say life on the day of death say sleep

      Jan. 17 2013 03:39 PM
      Niko from Portland, OR

      Say "expression." In a time of art culture, say "beauty"

      Jan. 17 2013 03:39 PM
      Annaka from Portland Oregon

      Say "hope" and pray for good things to come.Say "strength" and know the power of your nation.

      Jan. 17 2013 03:39 PM
      Liliana from Portland, OR

      Say "Thanks" to the people who give you the extra push you need, that work hard everyday, to the people who make a difference by doing the simplest things.

      Jan. 17 2013 03:38 PM


      Jan. 17 2013 03:38 PM
      Liliana from Portland, OR

      Say "Imagine" what we as Americans could become with a little guidance.

      Jan. 17 2013 03:36 PM
      zannon from Da vinci arts middle school

      As we approach this magnanimous occasion our country can florish in this new era. Say "freedom." Say "peace."

      Jan. 17 2013 03:36 PM
      Nate88 from Da Vinci Arts Middle School, Room 36

      When faced with bitter adversity, say "unite".

      Jan. 17 2013 03:35 PM
      Niko from Portland, OR

      Say "hope." In the age of new ideas and beliefs, say "acceptance"

      Jan. 17 2013 03:35 PM
      Eden Hayez from Portland, OR

      Say "friendship" for we have lost so many friends and gained so many enemies. Say "hope".

      Jan. 17 2013 03:34 PM
      oscar from ny

      Say, lets enjoy our lives to the fullest extent, say let Good make miracles continentaly ..
      Ps: yesterday it was mentioned about the logo of Procter & Gamble, it was a crescent moon with a human face, it had 13 snakes like Medusa in the back of moon and in the front of the face 13 stars,..Procter& Gamble made a pact to become successful in return for his portrait.
      The artist had to copy the reflection off a mirror for he couldn't see Satans face directly..

      Jan. 17 2013 01:34 PM

      Say "Unite" In the face of our common adversaries, Say "Forward", to those who will be our detractors.

      Jan. 17 2013 10:37 AM
      Nathan Miller Foster from Boston, MA

      Make the markets progressive, and send the guilty bankers to prison. Hear our liberty's death rattle till we do.

      Jan. 17 2013 08:32 AM
      Vida from Nolensville, TN

      @TheTakeaway Say, "Surrender a little," to preserve the nation say, "compromise;" the best of you with the best of me.#prezpoem

      Sorry. I don't twit ...

      Jan. 16 2013 11:24 PM
      John Leslie Gibson from Sumter SC

      We give so little of ourselves, yet we take so much for granted. Say hope.

      Jan. 16 2013 10:30 PM
      thankamina from @thandekamina

      #prezpoem Hope is built on compromise and gives a spiritual high

      Jan. 16 2013 09:24 PM
      @thandekamina from Hollywood,Florida

      #prezpoem Hope is built on compromise and gives a spiritual high

      Jan. 16 2013 09:20 PM
      @thandekamina from Florida

      Hope is built on compromise and gives a spiritual high.

      Jan. 16 2013 09:06 PM
      Gail Spratley from Winter Park, FL

      Join hands in spirit with your neighbors, fellow Americans,
      Over the fences that divide us, say "Nation", say "Hope".

      Jan. 16 2013 12:56 PM

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