First Drafts: Poem for a President

(The following is an article from the January-February 2013 issue of the Library’s magazine, LCM, highlighting “first drafts” of important documents in American history.)

This typescript of Robert Frost’s poem “Dedication” contains Frost’s holograph script corrections in ink and Stewart Udall’s holograph printed clarifications in pencil on the last page. Stewart L. Udall Papers, Manuscript Division

Robert Frost (1874 –1963) was the first poet commissioned to write a poem for a presidential inauguration. His poem, titled “Dedication,” was intended to be read at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy Jr., but the sun’s glare on the snowy January day prevented the poet from reading his most recent work. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory. Later that day, Steward L. Udall, Kennedy’s Secretary of the Interior, asked Frost for the original manuscript of the unread new poem. Frost agreed and added the inscription: “For Stewart from Robert on the day, Jan. 20, 1961.” The manuscript came to the Library of Congress when Udall donated his papers in 1969.

Robert Frost served as the Library’s Consultant in Poetry from 1958 to 1959. He recorded readings of his poetry in 1948, 1953 and 1959 for the Library’s Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.

Frost’s reading at the Kennedy inaugural was selected for inclusion on the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in 2003.

MORE INFORMATION
Guide to online resources on Robert Frost

Download the January-February 2013 issue of the LCM in its entirety here. You can also view the archives of the Library’s former publication from 1993 to 2011.

One Comment

  1. Nancy
    January 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    please correct:
    Robert Frost (1874 –1963) was the first poet commissioned to write a poem for a presidential inauguration. His poem, titled “Dedication,” was intended to be read at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy Jr.
    *I believe you are mistaken about the “Jr” as “john-john” would claim that title.

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