I Hear America Singing
The Poetry Foundation
A collection of classic and contemporary poems from the Poetry Foundation archive to celebrate the Fourth of July.
by Becca Klaver
For Independence Day, we bring you this wide-ranging selection of poems, articles, blog posts, and podcasts from the Poetry Foundation archive. Emma Lazarus's Statue of Liberty sonnet famously welcomes "homeless, tempest-tost" newcomers, while Jimmy Santiago Baca tallies harsh realities that sometimes follow that greeting. Acknowledging the United States' fraught past, Claude McKay confesses, "I love this cultured hell that tests my youth"; Alicia Ostriker worries that America "does not actually care"; and Tony Hoagland wonders whether his country is a "pleasure boat" or "maximum-security prison."
Rita Dove and Myra Sklarew pay homage to African Americans who helped build Washington, DC. Optimism wrestles with frustration in Susan Hahn's fin-de-siècle anthem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's endless waiting, and Allen Ginsberg's "holy litany." In Whitman's vision, American workers sing "what belongs to him or her and to none else." Together, his workers and these poets form a chorus of many Americas.
"Immigrants in Our Own Land" by Jimmy Santiago Baca
"Immigrant Picnic" by Gregory Djanikian
"Banneker" by Rita Dove
"I Am Waiting" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"America" by Allen Ginsberg
"Anthem" by Susan Hahn
"Fourth of July at Santa Ynez" by John Haines
"America" by Tony Hoagland
"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus
"Learning to Love America" by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim
"The Landlord's Tale. Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"America" by Claude McKay
"The History of America" by Alicia Ostriker
"Monuments" by Myra Sklarew
"I Hear America Singing" by Walt Whitman
AUDIO & PODCASTS
"Canada Anemone" by Fleda Brown
A reading of Brown's Fourth of July poem.
"Obamapoetics" by Elizabeth Alexander
Elizabeth Alexander on how the Derek Walcott-toting, June Jordan-quoting president will affect poets and poetry.
Conversations with America: Brian Turner
An essay from Iraq war veteran and poet Brian Turner.
Democracy in America
Walt Whitman and the politics of the Civil War.
"Keep the spot sore!" by Joel Brouwer
"Empire in Funkville" by Linh Dinh
"I dedicate this work to the U.S.A., that it become just another part of the world, no more, no less" by Kenneth Goldsmith
The text of "Lecture on the Weather" by John Cage, commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for the bicentennial of the U.S.A.
"I saved my most impersonal post for last." by Javier Huerta
"San Francisco: Grounded at Last" by W. S. Di Piero
"The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America: Something Like a Sonnet for Phillis Wheatley" by June Jordan
"200 Years of Afro-American Poetry" (1965) by Langston Hughes
An historical examination of the trajectory of African American poetry, beginning with Lucy Terry, a slave, in 1746, and continuing through Phillis Wheatley and Paul Laurence Dunbar to the rising generation of African American poets in the 1950s and 60s.
"Dream in Color: A Resource Guide for Elementary School Teachers" [pdf]
Includes Independence Day poems such as "Danitra's Family Reunion" by Nikki Grimes.