Inaugural Poem Type

Here’s what the inaugural poem type is:

An inaugural poem is a subtype of occasional poetry. It’s read during an inauguration of a new president.

Only three American presidents have poets read an inaugural poem at their inaugurations thus far. Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama were leaders known to be appreciative of literature.

If you want to learn all about the inaugural poem type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading!

Inaugural Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

What Is Inaugural Poetry?

The United States Capitol Building, preparing construction for inauguration on blue sky.

Inaugural poems are a subset of occasional poems written specifically to celebrate the inauguration of a new president.

The practice is relatively new and there have thus far only been six inaugural poems presented in United States history

Inaugural poems, as the name would suggest, are written to celebrate a presidential inauguration.

Welcoming a new regime is always a big moment in history for any country, and the United States tends to celebrate these inaugurations as key historic events.

Inaugural poets are not to be confused with poet laureates, a separate position of honor granted by the Library of Congress.

Inaugural Poems in the United States

American flags and text inauguration day
Name of PoetElectionName of Poem
Robert FrostKennedy, 1961The Gift Outright
Maya AngelouClinton, 1993On the Pulse of Morning
Miller WilliamsClinton, 1997Of History and Hope
Elizabeth AlexanderObama, 2009Praise Song for the Day
Richard BlancoObama, 2013One Today
Amanda GormanBiden, 2021The Hill We Climb

What Is the History of Inaugural Poetry?

Man in suit speaking on the podium next to the US flag.

It should be noted that only four presidents have invited poets to read at their inaugurations.

John F. Kennedy (inaugurated in 1961), Bill Clinton (1993 and 1997), Barack Obama (2009 and 2013), and Joe Biden (2021) are the only presidents who have thus far integrated poetry into their inaugural celebrations.

As such, the United States has only ever had a total of six official inaugural poems, making this one of the rarest categories of poems in world history.

The six poets who have presented inaugural poems were Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander, Richard Blanco, and Amanda Gorman.

While inaugural poems are not necessarily a partisan tradition, it is noteworthy that all four presidents to have featured inaugural poems in their celebrations were Democrats.

What Is an Example of an Inaugural Poem?

Capitol building in Washington DC at beautiful purple sunset.

from Praise Song for the Day

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander

Gorman’s poem is completely unlike the previous example but was appropriate for the timing.

2020 Presidential Election Buttons

The Trump vs Biden presidential election represented one of the most bitter and aggressive rivalries between candidates in American history and there were very real concerns that the country might split in the aftermath.

Instead of shying away from those tensions, Gorman’s poem seems to pointedly announce that a dark era in the nation’s history has ended, firmly planting her feet as an opponent of the preceding regime.

A poem like this would have been wildly inappropriate for nearly every other election in history, but it felt right at home in the tense political climate of 2021.

What Are the Key Features of Inaugural Poems?

Waving usa flag in hand at sunset

Inaugural poems are typically written to promote patriotism and usher in the coming of a new era under new leadership.

They are as much a celebration of the country’s history as they are a celebration of the country’s future and are often more geared at praising America itself than the new president.

Inaugural poems tend to read more like speeches or prose poems than traditional or lyric poetry.

Also, its practice is too new and too rare to say that any conventions have been set in stone yet.

United States Capitol building at sunny day in Washington DC.

One defining feature of inaugural poems is that they are occasional poems, written for that one occasion and for the audience that will be present on the day of the delivery.

As such, inaugural poems are free to explore contemporary topics with little regard for how applicable the poems will be ten or twenty years later since they’re only meant for the present.

Poet’s Note

Poet's_Note

I would have given you extensive tips for how to write a good inaugural poem but there’s a simple reason I didn’t.

If you’re invited by the President of the United States (or some similar authority) to write a poem, then you probably don’t need my advice anymore.

Just throwing that out there.

What Are the Most Important Types of Poems?

Vintage poetry book on wooden platform

Poems have been around for ages. They are creative expressions of human thoughts and emotions.

From acrostics to odes and sonnets, there are poetry types that have endured lifetimes. Below are some of the most enduring and timeless ones.

Here’s the complete overview and simple explanations of the most important poem types.