Open Letter to President-elect 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)