The Academy of American Poets and the National Archives have teamed up to celebrate American Archives Month with We the Poets, a project in which poets wrote poems inspired by holdings, such as photographs and historical documents, in the National Archives.

The poems will be posted on the National Archives’ Prologue: Pieces of History blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the month of October. The poets involved—who include Mary Jo Salter, David Wojahn, Regie Cabico, and Sandra Beasley, among others—recited their poems at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. You can see videos of these performances on the National Archives YouTube channel, and the videos and poems will also be available on

The project kicked off with the premiere of Salter’s poem “The Buttonhook,” inspired by a National Archives photograph of uniformed inspectors examining immigrants on Ellis Island.

view the collection