When President Obama was a 19-year-old student at Occidental College, he published two poems in the spring 1982 issue of Feast, the school's literary magazine. The first poem, "Pop," appears to capture a moment between the young Obama and his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham. The bond between the two is reinforced at the end of the poem by the framing and reflective properties of Pop's glasses.
When asked to comment on the merit of "Pop," Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English at Yale University, described it as “not bad—a good enough folk poem with some pathos and humor and affection.... It is not wholly unlike Langston Hughes, who tended to imitate Carl Sandburg."  Obama's poetry, Bloom makes clear, is much superior to the poetry of former President Jimmy Carter (Bloom calls Carter "literally the worst poet in the United States").
President Obama's second poem, "Underground," is more exotic and obscure:
Bloom feels that "Underground" is the better of Obama's two poems, reminiscent of some of D. H. Lawrence's poetry: “I think it is about some sense of chthonic forces, just as Lawrence frequently is—some sense, not wholly articulated, of something below, trying to break through.” 
While President Obama's poetry displays some signs of talent, by choosing politics over poetry he made, like the other poetry-writing presidents before him, the right career choice. As Bloom notes: “If I had been shown these poems by one of my undergraduates and asked, Shall I go on with it?, I would have rubbed my forehead and said, On the whole, my dear, probably not. Your future is not as a person of letters.“
Although President Obama may not have written poetry since his college years, his fondness for poetry remains. Obama was seen carrying Derek Walcott's Collected Poems, 1948-1984 shortly after his election; invited Elizabeth Alexander to read a poem at his inauguration; hosted, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, a celebration of poetry, music and the spoken word at the White House; and noted in a recent interview that he reads Urdu poetry.
1. All quotations by Harold Bloom from Rebecca Mead's "Obama, Poet," (http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2007/07/02/
070702ta_talk_mead, The New Yorker, July 2, 2007).
2. To read other assessments of Obama's poetry, many less positive than Harold Bloom's, see "Obama's Poetry Skills Draw Scrutiny" (http://media.www.oxyweekly.com/media/storage/paper1200/news/2007/04/04/News/
Obamas.Poetry.Skills.Draw.Scrutiny-2822022.shtml, The Occidental Weekly, April 4, 2007).
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Barack Obama (President of the United States) wrote and published 2 Poems
Now it's time out. As the case with ALL prior poems published on this blog, I've included my opinion and a brief literary explanation of the poem. However in this case, I've elected just to publish President Obama's poems on this blog without any explanation. As most of my readers know, I also write a blog called 'Obama in the White House' which can be found at http://www.obamainthewhitehouse.us . Many people do not know that the President actually published the following two poems when he was a college student.