Open Letter to President-elect Obama

Dear Mr. Obama:

I think I speak for the world when I say we are thrilled that you will be the 44th president of the United States. Unfortunately, you have a staggering number of immediate problems that you must tackle on day one. But here’s one problem I can help you with—selecting a poet to read at your inauguration!

No doubt, your installation as president will be the most-watched event EVER, if your election-night acceptance speech was any indication. And seeing in recent photos that you read poetry, specifically the poetry of Derek Walcott, I feel it is my honor—no, my duty—to offer a range of selections for you to choose from on this very special occasion.

Two poets that I think would aptly capture this historic moment would be Lucille Clifton and Natasha Trethewey. Both are well regarded in the literary community for their talent, their ability to inspire, and their deep reverence for the past.

Other well-regarded poets you might consider include Mary Oliver, Terrance Hayes, Mark Doty, and Naomi Shihab Nye—all of whom have the capacity to reach across all cultural divides to recognize and celebrate the best of what this country has to offer. Of course, Billy Collins is good with large crowds; but, quite frankly, it would be nice to hear from poets who represent the broader spectrum of verse in the United States.

Lastly, if asked, I would be honored to read a poem at your inauguration. Surely you know I’ve had some recent experience reading at an inauguration. Maybe you feel it more fitting for me to be the next U.S. poet laureate, or head of the NEA. Well, I gladly accept, as it has been my dream to work to expand the reaches of poetry to both poetry lovers and nontraditional poetry audiences.

As you know, Mr. President-elect, poetry is thriving in this country, and there are many wonderful poets I’ve left out of this letter. Feel free to leave a response on my blog if I can be of service.


January O’Neil (a.k.a. Poet Mom)


~ said…
I'm not the president-elect, but I second Natasha Trethewey. I think she would be fantastic! Of course, I love L.C. too.
Yay, January! I cast my vote for YOU! ~ You are the equal of any of those you mentioned.
Anonymous said…
LOL I love it! Honestly, I think I'd love to see Mary Oliver up there. I think Lucille C is a shoe-in tho!
January said…
Now this speculation I can get on board with! Make your poetry predictions here and let's see who guesses the inaugural poet.


I just saw that Jimmy Santiago Baca has started a Facebook page lobbying for the top spot:

Good for him!
January said…
I mistyped. Someone has started a page for Baca, he didn't create his own page.
odessa said…
oh, january i love it! hope mr. president-elect will read this. and hope he picks you! i'd love to see mary oliver up there too.

and um, he reads poetry? goodness, can he be more perfect?! i think i have a little crush. okay, big crush. :)
January said…
Our future president is cool. And he reads poetry.

It's all good in my book. It's all good!
susan said…
Well, I think you should really send the letter. :-)

Well said, January.
Writer Bug said…
Love it January! It put a big smile on my face.
Collin Kelley said…
Natasha would be awesome, but only if you can't do it January. And I would selflessly offer to be your stand-in if you can't make. ;-)
Lisa Allender said…
Hi January, I found you through Collin Kelley's Blog.
I've been looking over your blog, and I think you really rock! How clever of you to put this letter out there for our President-Elect(How I LOVE typing that!!) Obama.
You or Natasha Trethewey, excellent.Perhaps Cecilia Woloch--well-traveled, with tender, heart-rending verse. And she's very politically active, too!Nice to have a woman poet who's got an "international" feel!
Kay said…
You know, without a word of a lie, before I read this post I was thinking to myself (which is an odd thing to say I always think, because who else do we think to?) ... anyway, I was thinking I know who should read the inauguration poem - January! True! :)
Anonymous said…
So are you going to send this letter?!! Anyway, my vote'd be for you to read at the inauguration! Failing that I'd go for Mary Oliver but that is mainly because she's the only poet (apart from you) whose work I'm familiar with. My knowledge of contemporary American poets is somewhat lacking!
Maya Ganesan said…
Oh yes, I love those picks. Especially Natasha Trethewey. And Lucille Clifton is a brilliant inspiration.

And you, of course, would make a most marvelous poetry guest at the inauguration. And a spectacular poet laureate.

Do send the letter!
kj said…
i vote for january!

no question!
January said…
Thanks everyone. For the record, I'm not sending the letter to the Obama transition committee.

But if they're taking suggestions, I'm more than willing to do my part ... you know ... for the good of the country.
Anonymous said…
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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