Frontlist | Amanda Gorman & other inaugural poets: Their poems in books

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The nation’s Youth Poet Laureate joins five other poets who’ve read their work for inaugurations, among them Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco and Robert Frost.

After Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, her two books — both of which haven’t officially published yet — quickly became Amazon bestsellers. As of press time, both of Gorman’s books are currently ranking above Meena Harris’s “Ambitious Girl,” former President Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” and George Orwell’s “1984,” all of which are in the top ten books listed.

The 22-year-old is only the sixth poet in U.S. history to read their work at a presidential inauguration, according to Jen Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets. As it stands, just four American presidents have included a poetry reading at their inaugurations: Presidents Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, Kennedy being the first to ask a poet to read at a presidential inauguration in the U.S. Benka was excited that President Biden became one of the few presidents to continue the tradition in 2021.

Inaugural poems fall under the category of occasional poetry, Benka explained, the label encompassing poems that are written for important moments in time. She said she’s stunned by the response Gorman received after reciting her poem during President Biden’s inauguration, noting it’s the most attention a poet has gotten for their work in recent memory.

“Amanda gave people lines to hold on to during a particularly challenging moment in time,” Benka said. “It speaks to the unique power of a poem to help us through these difficult times.”

“Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem” by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long (illustrator) (pre-order)

You’ll find Gorman’s inaugural poem in her poetry collection below. The same day that collection publishes, Gorman will also publish her first children’s book, a rhyming (and lyrical) picture book, with illustrations from Loren Long.

Since Gorman’s books have grown in popularity overnight, we took a look at the other inaugural poets to have read for presidents, alongside the poetry books including those poems.

Amanda Gorman, inaugural poet in 2021

1. “The Hill We Climb: Poems” by Amanda Gorman (pre-order)

Gorman, named the country’s first Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, read her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” during the inauguration of President Joe Biden as the 46th president of the U.S. The poem will appear in Gorman’s upcoming collection of poems, named after the inaugural poem and set to publish in September. A special edition of Gorman’s inaugural poem will be published in April, too.

Richard Blanco, inaugural poet in 2013

2. “One Today” by Richard Blanco and Dav Pilkey (illustrator)

Blanco, the nation’s first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, read his poem “One Today” during the second inauguration of former President Barack Obama. The poem was turned into an illustrated book with art by Dav Pilkey, creator of the “Captain Underpants” series.

Elizabeth Alexander, inaugural poet in 2009

3. “Praise Song For The New Day” by Elizabeth Alexander

Alexander read her poem “Praise Song For The New Day” during the inauguration of former President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. The poem is published in this collectible edition of the work.

Miller Williams, inaugural poet in 1997

4. “The Ways We Touch” by Miller Williams

Williams read his poem “Of History and Hope” during the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton. The poem is featured in Williams’ book “The Ways We Touch,” a larger collection of his works.

Maya Angelou, inaugural poet in 1993

5. “On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou

Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton as the 42nd president of the United States. The poem is published in this book, a hard copy edition of the work.

Robert Frost, inaugural poet in 1961

6. “The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged” by Robert Frost and Edward Connery Lathem (editor)

Frost was the first poet ever to read a work at a presidential inauguration. He read his poem “The Gift Outright” at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy as the 35th president of the United States. The poem is published in this book, which features all eleven of Frost’s individual books of poetry from 1913 to1962.

 

Source: NBC News

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