An inaugural poem is a poem read at a Presidential inauguration. It may also be categorized as an occasional poem

History of the Inaugural Poem

In the United States and beyond, elections provide regular opportunities for communities and countries to reflect on our histories. From voting to inauguration, each moment we have to voice our hopes for the community acts as powerful way to think about how our individual values impact the future of our governments, cultures, and civilizations. 

While art and literature have always played an integral part in shaping the history of our civilization, the inclusion of poetry at the Presidential inauguration is relatively recent. Only three presidents—John F. Kennedy in 1961, Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, and Barack Obama in 2009 and 2013—have had poets read at their inaugurations. These three presidents were known for their appreciation of reading and literature.

Poets Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander, and Richard Blanco are the only poets to have read at a Presidential inauguration. Read more about their poems and browse videos of them reading.