In your group, study the one poem that you chose as your favorite inaugural poem. We have already discussed audience and purpose for an inaugural poem. In our discussion of purpose, we discussed two key ideas: 

  • The idea that these poems might look back into history/experience, forward toward hope and a better nation, and highlight the present moment as a bridge between the two.
  • The idea that these poems will address American identity— who are we as a people, who have we been, who do we wish to be? These questions focus on American values and ideals.

While we identified two potential purposes of an inaugural poem before reading them, we now want to come to each poem with an open mind.

You may use “How to Read a Poem” to guide your analysis.

Spend 15 minutes with your group answering the following questions before you report back
to the class.

  1. At an emotional or personal level, why did you like this poem the best of the five poems?
  2. Is there a “story” or “narrative” in the poem? If so, what is it?
  3. In what ways does this poem fulfill the purpose of an inaugural poem?
  4. In what other ways is this poem fulfilling a purpose? What do you think the poem is trying to “say” to its audience?
  5. What literary devices and structural devices does the poet use to create meaning and tone? If you were going to model your own inaugural poem after this poem, what specific literary techniques might you choose to employ?
  6. Do you notice any important images?
  7. Do you notice any important symbols?
  8. Do you notice any repetition? If so, how does repetition work in the poem?
  9. What kind of appeal does the poet (or speaker) make to the audience? Is it personal, or political, or spiritual, or something else (logos, ethos, pathos), or some combination?