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Poets Who Inspired Presidents

The Poetry Foundation has published “Poetic Presidents,” a study of 12 Presidents and “the poets that inspired them.”

Just in time for the election, the match-ups include George Washington and Phyllis Wheatley (the first African-American female to publish a book of poetry), John F. Kennedy and Robert Frost (the first poet to perform a reading at a presidential swearing in event) and Barack Obama and Elizabeth Alexander.

Here’s more from the article: “Politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose, former New York governor Mario Cuomo once said. While it’s debatable whether this epically long and tumultuous election cycle has inspired much verse, we at the Poetry Foundation would like to think that poetry has its place at the White House regardless of who emerges as the victor on November 6.”

Alexander composed the poem “Praise Song for the Day” and read the piece aloud during President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Above, we’ve embedded a video of Alexander’s poetry reading. Follow this link to learn about how Alexander wrote the poem. Click here to hear President Bill Clinton read “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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