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.

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Author Lora Senf discusses how one chilling text message led her to writing her new middle grade horror novel, The Clackity.

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Critically acclaimed novelist Katrina Leno discusses the process of bringing her childhood memories to magical life in her new young adult novel, Sometime in Summer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A New Podcast Episode, "Your Story" Prompt, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our latest episode of "Writer's Digest Presents," the new "Your Story" prompt, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.