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Since Amanda Gorman, America's youngest-ever inaugural poet, read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, it's become the No. 1 bestselling book in Black and African American Poetry on Amazon. In September, Gorman launched a children’s picture book, “Change Sings.” Today, she released a poetry collection titled “Call Us What We Carry,” and that book is already the No. 1 bestselling book in the poetry by women category on Amazon.
The 23-year-old is only the sixth poet in U.S. history to read their work at a presidential inauguration, according to Jen Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets. As it stands, just four American presidents have included a poetry reading at their inaugurations: Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy.
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Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate
Benka was excited that Biden continued the tradition in 2021. Inaugural poems fall under the category of occasional poetry, Benka explained, the label encompassing poems that are written for important moments in time. She said she's been stunned by the response Gorman received after the inauguration, noting it’s the most attention a poet has gotten for their work in recent memory.
“Amanda gave people lines to hold on to during a particularly challenging moment in time,” Benka said. “It speaks to the unique power of a poem to help us through these difficult times.”
Since Gorman’s books have grown in popularity, we've taken a look at the other inaugural poets to have read for presidents, alongside the books including those poems.
Amanda Gorman, inaugural poet in 2021
1. “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” by Amanda Gorman
Gorman, named the country’s first Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, read “The Hill We Climb” during Biden's inauguration as the 46th president of the U.S. A special edition of the inaugural poem launched in March, and it also appears in Gorman’s newly released collection of poems, “Call Us What We Carry.” Gorman’s children’s picture book, “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” was also just released.
Richard Blanco, inaugural poet in 2013
2. “One Today” by Richard Blanco and Dav Pilkey (illustrator)
Blanco, the nation’s first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, read his poem “One Today” during the second inauguration of Obama. The poem was turned into an illustrated book with art by Dav Pilkey, creator of the “Captain Underpants” series.
Elizabeth Alexander, inaugural poet in 2009
3. “Praise Song For The New Day” by Elizabeth Alexander
Alexander read her poem “Praise Song For The New Day” during Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States. The poem is published in this collectible edition of the work.
Miller Williams, inaugural poet in 1997
4. “The Ways We Touch” by Miller Williams
Williams read his poem “Of History and Hope” during Clinton's second inauguration. The poem is featured in Williams’ book “The Ways We Touch,” a larger collection of his works.
Maya Angelou, inaugural poet in 1993
5. “On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou
Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Clinton's first inauguration as the 42nd president of the United States. The poem is published in this book, a hard copy edition of the work.
Robert Frost, inaugural poet in 1961
6. “The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged” by Robert Frost and Edward Connery Lathem (editor)
Frost was the first poet ever to read a work at a presidential inauguration. He read his poem “The Gift Outright” at Kennedy's inauguration as the 35th president of the United States. The poem is published in this book, which features all eleven of Frost’s individual books of poetry from 1913 to1962.