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The Presidency, in Verse

November 2, 2012 | by

We may know their takes on climate change, on reproductive rights, on economic policy. But what of poetry? The Poetry Foundation has investigated the poets the presidents loved, and presented their findings in an illuminating and timely post. Just a few pairings:

George Washington and Phillis Wheatley

An educated African slave, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American woman to publish a collection of poetry, with the book appearing in 1773. Three years later, she sent a poem she wrote to George Washington that celebrated the general’s leadership. Washington wrote back to praise her “great poetical Talents” and told Wheatley that should she ever visit Cambridge, Massachusetts, he would be “be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses.”

Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns

Abraham Lincoln adored poetry. Lincoln was especially fond of Scottish poet Robert Burns, and committed many of his poems to memory. In 1865 Lincoln was invited to give a toast at a banquet honoring the poet, but he declined, writing: “I cannot frame a toast to Burns. I can say nothing worthy of his generous heart and transcending genius. Thinking of what he has said, I can not say anything which seems worth saying.”


For the whole rundown—from Jefferson to Ford to Obama—see the Poetry Foundation web site.






  1. Sylva-MD-Poetry | November 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I am not American…My bones are from genocided race
    I forwarded a poem to first lady Lora Bush received a very dry letter…Which I’m not proud of…
    The verse “Bush Family the Savior and Armenian Genocide”…

    Recently i forwarded a poetry collection of 237 pages condensed pages of verses to President Obama and his wife, praising first because he promised Armenians that he will recognize our genocide and at the end blaming him…How he betrayed Armenian and refused to say word genocide…
    I haven’t heard any thing yet…!
    I say to every poet…”Don’t trust any Politician”
    “politics Play and People pay…

  2. Sylva-MD-Poetry | November 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    A True Man Named O.B (Barak Obama)

    My Painful Poetry
    To a True Man

    To a Human Our genocided cohorts
    Trusted and blessed him
    To recognize our dignified pain.

    We feel that once he became President,
    He closed the page
    On Woodrow Wilson’’s * signature
    On the Armenian Map.

    If President Lincoln**were still alive
    Would He have changed his punctuated oat?

    Our dear president
    I hope you will be immortal like Abraham Lincoln**
    Hope you live long enough
    To clean the earth from past genocides . . .
    Prevent further ones.

    We’’re called Armenians
    We can shatter the rocks . . .
    Open Our ‘‘Rusted Ancient Roads’’.
    As we’’re born from
    Real human genes
    No one has been able to
    Crush our hands through centuries;

    A nation carved crosses on the rocks,
    defined ‘‘Khatchkars’’
    Through centuries proudly stands.

    We still stay sincere for ‘‘Our Oats’’.
    From our honest harts (hearts)

    Once we bless, we will continue to bless
    Who can’’t clean our tearful face
    And continue smiling at our slayers
    Who murdered us and others mercilessly;
    Still playing with dignified carcasses.

    Sylva Portoian, MD

  3. Sylva-MD-Poetry | November 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Differential Diagnosis Between Slavery and Slayery
    Why make so much protest about slavery*.
    Whereas inhuman slayery**
    Is left blurred, broodless, bleak . . .

    Slavery has a history of two centuries,
    Whereas slayery since biogenesis . . .
    Still oozes blood . . . rages . . . screams
    Without reaching the sun’’s justice.

    Inequality always exists.
    Slaves exist Re and Re breeds.
    Whilst innocent genocided orphans vanished,
    Without implanting their seeds.

    Slavers have a life:
    They eat work and view the dusk
    While those who have been slayed, melted,
    In their marrow’’s countless gifted genes.

    Slavery was a fashion then
    Still exists . . . conceals . . . cheats . . .

    Grieve . . . Grieve
    Genocide is a Genocide
    No human can leave
    That man-made plague
    Unchased, unbereaved.

    Slaves are snatched alive,
    Brought to face harsh life.
    Tell me who doesn’’t work hard,
    Willingly or unwillingly.
    Without work can anyone survive?

    Slaves will gradually tolerate others’’ harshness
    Thus . . . accept what they face.
    Some are looked after like a family member;
    Few are unlucky enough to be beaten to the grave

    Think . . . If someone slated,
    Every lilting spiritual cell is ended.
    Smashed humans don’’t know what is in store for them! They are living in their squares . . .
    If unexpectedly some gendarmes enter
    to slay . . . rape . . .;
    Tell me who can escape.

    ““To be a slave is to be safe——
    They keep slaves
    Thus, They need their skills;
    They feed them to behave.””

    The difference can’’t be shredded;
    Like some climbing a hill
    Have a hope to breathe blue-air.
    Whilst others are hurled down with their skins
    To sigh uncared.
    Calling Mighty . . . calling Saints.
    No-one must heed.

    Needless to ask,
    Does God keep the criminals alive
    To slaughter . . . live . . . laugh . . . ?

    Sylva portoian,MD
    * Slavery: held in involuntary servitude as the property of somebody else.
    ** Slayery: held to be killed without any crime, even not to think to be used as a slave. (Suggested by the Author Sylva and Defined by Luigi Marchini)

  4. Joe Carlson | November 2, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Lincoln should have just piped in the haggis:

    Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
    Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
    Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
    Painch, tripe, or thairm:
    Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
    As lang’s my arm.

    The groaning trencher there ye fill,
    Your hurdies like a distant hill,
    Your pin was help to mend a mill
    In time o’need,
    While thro’ your pores the dews distil
    Like amber bead.

    His knife see rustic Labour dight,
    An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
    Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
    Like ony ditch;
    And then, O what a glorious sight,
    Warm-reekin’, rich!

    Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
    Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
    Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
    Are bent like drums;
    Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
    Bethankit! hums.

    Is there that owre his French ragout
    Or olio that wad staw a sow,
    Or fricassee wad make her spew
    Wi’ perfect sconner,
    Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
    On sic a dinner?

    Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
    As feckles as wither’d rash,
    His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
    His nieve a nit;
    Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
    O how unfit!

    But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
    The trembling earth resounds his tread.
    Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
    He’ll mak it whissle;
    An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
    Like taps o’ trissle.

    Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
    And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
    Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
    That jaups in luggies;
    But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
    Gie her a haggis!

    Or maybe not.

  5. Casey | November 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    As the Starr Report mentioned several times, Clinton gave Monica Lewinsky a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass as a gift.

  6. Nat Berhanu | February 16, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Poem For The Presidency
    Poetic Knight By Nat Berhanu

    Washington here I come
    Let the whole world know
    Where I come from.

    My pops is African
    My mom an American,
    I am indeed an African American.

    By the dawn of early light
    I vow to rise and fight
    To save the American dream
    All human race has in sight.

    New day has dawned
    Some welcome it with a frown.
    But at the end of the day
    We all need to rise and pray.

    Hail president Kennedy
    For stationing
    The missiles, permanently.

    Martin said
    Let freedom ring
    Now it sounds like
    I hear the birds chirp chirp
    And sing sing.

    Jesse said
    Keep hope alive
    For that I give him
    A enormous high five.

    From Africa to Asia
    From Europe to Oceania
    Let’s not forget, The America’s
    All are propped up.
    To tip their hat
    To Obama
    And United States of America.

    So, let’s wake up and see
    The sun
    While we sing the old song
    Yes We Can, Yes We Can
    Yes We can!

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