A while back the Best American Poetry folks staged an Inaugural Ode contest. To be eligible, a poem had to consist of four quatrains, include at least three words from a prescribed list (honor, integrity, faith, hope, change, power), and make use of a line from one of the poems in The Best American Poetry 2008.
The BAP post Inaugural Poems in the News tells me that the Associated Press invited ten poets to write and record their own inaugural poems. Those poems are here, some accompanied by little recorded videos of the poets reading their own work. I especially like David Lehman's poem, and Yosef Komunyakaa's -- maybe especially because Komunyakaa ends his poem with an arctic image, and my submission to the Inaugural Ode contest takes its imagery from polar exploration.
I do feel like the United States under an Obama presidency has the potential to be a kind of terra nova: rife with unexplored potential and new possibilities. May we have the courage and the perseverance to embody those possibilities in the years to come.
For the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
As this cold day dawns you stand at the prow
gazing over the ice. It creaks and groans
but your sixth sense will tell us where the floes
will let us through. Terra incognita awaits
and bright sundogs gamboling across the sky
and nightfall, though who wants
to think about that now? I have faith
you'll read the compass even when the needle wobbles.
I see you in profile as if sharpened and stenciled.
If you ask us to trudge until the sennegrass
rubs our chapped feet raw, if you tell us change
can be found just over the next jumbled ridge
we will walk. And what we find there will warm us
like a primus lamp in a reindeer-hide tent
because of how you gently, seriously reach
to hold our frozen hands to your beating heart.
"I see you in profile as if sharpened and stenciled," from "Faithful" by Dara Wier.