President Kennedy on Poetry

JFK was a fan of Robert Frost, whom the President invited to a speaking role at his inauguration. Frost had prepared two poems, The Gift Outright (1923), and Dedication (1961), written within days of the event. But on game day, the glare of sunlight off the snow made reading Dedication impossible and there had not been time to memorize it. So only The Gift Outright was presented, thanks to Frost’s sharp mind and wit.

Two years later Kennedy would eulogize The Poet, just a month before his own assassination. The President said:

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment. The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.

JFK said of Frost,

He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse* from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.

* Verse [emphasis added] is synonymous with poetry, at least to JFK. President Kennedy knew that Poetry Lives in the Land of Verse.

Norton Anthology of Poetry, Window Shopping

Alternate sub-titles:
Just Passing Through,
Shorter Works that Caught My Eye

What did I read?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Henry David Thoreau
I Am a Parody of Vain String Tied
John Keats
On the Sonnet
Emily Dickinson
I Like to See it Lap the Miles
God is a Distant-Stately Lover
A Bird Came Down the Walk
Safe in their Alabaster Chambers
Some things that fly there be
A.E. Housman
Stars, I have Seen Them Fall
Rudyard Kipling
Robert Frost
The Gift Outright
Neither Out Far Nor In Deep*
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
The Wood Pile
Carl Sandburg

What did I learn?

How to Write Poetry

1. Have something to say.
2. Say it honestly, and
3. with some degree of wit.

Though I am not a Famous Poet, I am alive and can still put pen to pad. I can still improve my poetry and my prose, while theirs lies frozen for all time. My work is still a work in progress, and I have readers (present still) I can enjoy.

And I also learned…

That I too have valid things to say.
That I too can say things honestly,
and with wit.

That Emily Dickinson is morose.

That there may be more to R. Kipling than I suspected. #ReadMoreKipling

That the discussion on what comprises Poetry has been ongoing for quite some time and that I really should not fret too much about it, and just enjoy the ride. But I will no doubt succumb to the Temptations Great and make Pronouncements Proud.

…That some of my poems may be just as good as some of Robert Frost’s work* – but Stopping by Woods is still my All Time Favorite poem. #StillInAweOfFrost

I am also reminded of what my guitar instructor, Norman Rockwell [his real name] told me [paraphrasing]: “Playing your own music, in your own voice is better than learning to play like someone else.” The world already has one Paul McCartney. I will never be as good at playing him as he is, but I can Flat Out Wail on bass – as myself. And, although I will never be Robert Frost, I have a voice which is my own and I can Rock on writing poems, too.

*Frost’s Neither Out Far Nor In Deep reminded me very much of my own haiku . In fact, I think I may have said it better.