Skip to main content

Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.

Today, there was once again an inaugural poet. After President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in, Amanda Gorman (the nation's first ever National Youth Poet Laureate) read her poem "The Hill We Climb." She became the fifth inaugural poet of my lifetime, but only the sixth ever.

(Precedent vs. President.)

Since it's a relatively new precedent for a president to choose a poet for Inauguration Day ceremonies, I thought I would run down who an inaugural poet is, who they have been, which presidents have chosen them, and which poems they've read.

who_are_the_inaugural_poets_for_united_states_presidents_robert_lee_brewer

Who Is an Inaugural Poet?

An inaugural poet is a poet who reads a poem as part of the presidential inauguration ceremonies. The first one was Robert Frost at the inauguration for President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the most recent was today's performance by Amanda Gorman for President Joe Biden.

(7 Presidential Quotes About the Importance of Writing and Reading.)

While I don't think poetry is a partisan activity, there have been six inaugural poets selected by four presidents, all of whom have been Democrats (Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Biden).

Interestingly, Robert Frost wrote a poem specifically for the inauguration that he was unable to read because of the sunlight reflecting off the paper. So he improvised and recited his poem "The Gift Outright" from memory.

(List of Poetic Forms for Poets.)

Who Are the Inaugural Poets, the Presidents Who Selected Them, and Their Poems?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets, the presidents who selected them, and their poems:

  • 1961: Robert Frost read "The Gift Outright" for John F. Kennedy's inauguration
  • 1993: Maya Angelou read "On the Pulse of Morning" for Bill Clinton's first inauguration
  • 1997: Miller Williams read "Of History and Hope" for Bill Clinton's second inauguration
  • 2009: Elizabeth Alexander read "Praise Song for the Day" for Barack Obama's first inauguration
  • 2013: Richard Blanco read "One Today" for Barack Obama's second inauguration
  • 2021: Amanda Gorman read "The Hill We Climb" for Joe Biden's inauguration

*****

writers_digest_university_logo

Whether you're writing for publication, extra money, or to tell personal stories, Writer's Digest University can help you get your writing career underway. Our expert instructors will provide advice, specific instruction, real-world experience, expertise, and the motivation and drive to help you achieve your goals.

Click to continue.

Brian Lee Durfee: On Finishing a Fantasy Trilogy

Brian Lee Durfee: On Finishing a Fantasy Trilogy

Artist and author Brian Lee Durfee discusses what it felt like to write the final sentence in his Five Warrior Angels trilogy with his novel, The Lonesome Crown.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 5 WDU Courses, our Short Short Story Competition, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce 5 WDU courses, our short short story competition deadline, and more!

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 27

For the 2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Day 27 is all about resolutions.

Willaims, 11:26

Preslaysa Williams: On Finding Hope in Romance

Award-winning author Preslaysa Williams discusses the process of writing her new romance novel, A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 26

For the 2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Day 26 requires a second thought.

12 Books That Make Perfect Gifts This Holiday Season

12 Books That Make Perfect Gifts This Holiday Season

Here are 12 books released in 2022 that make perfect gifts this holiday season for the reader in your life.

Writing a Nonfiction Crime Story in a Literary Style

Writing a Nonfiction Crime Story in a Literary Style

Rigorous research, incorporating  authentic dialogue, and adding details from true-to-life moments, author Deborah Larkin shares how she wrote a nonfiction crime story in a literary style.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Day 25 gets serious.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Deal

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Deal

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character make a deal.