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.
Mary Harris is the Senior Producer for Health reporting at WNYC. Before joining the newsroom, Mary helped launch WNYC's midday talk show, The Takeaway. Prior to that, she spent nearly a decade working for ABC News, where she traveled to Kuwait, India, and China to tell stories for that network. Her first and favorite beat was health and healthcare. Find her on twitter @marysdesk.