Poem Sampler

July 4th Poems

Cookouts, fireworks, and history lessons recounted in poems, articles, and audio.

by Becca Klaver
July 4th Poems
Illustration by Jason Novak

For Independence Day, we bring you this wide-ranging selection of poems, articles, blog posts, and podcasts. These poets form a chorus of many Americas.

POEMS

The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus: This famous Statue of Liberty sonnet famously welcomes “homeless, tempest-tost” newcomers.

Immigrants in Our Own Land” by Jimmy Santiago Baca: The poet tallies harsh realities that sometimes follow the Statue of Liberty's greeting.

Fourth of July” by John Brehm: The identities and meanings of America explored in metaphors.

I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman: In Whitman’s vision, American workers sing “what belongs to him or her and to none else.” 

Immigrant Picnic” by Gregory Djanikian: The poet recounts the oddities of a traditional American July 4th cookout with his immigrant parents.

I Am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti: This poem lists so many things that our country is still waiting for. 

America” by Allen Ginsberg: This famous poem begins America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. / America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956. / I can’t stand my own mind.

Anthem” by Susan Hahn: Optimism wrestles with frustration in Susan Hahn’s fin-de-siècle anthem.

America” by Tony Hoagland: In this poem, Hoagland wonders whether his country is a “pleasure boat” or “maximum-security prison.” 

Learning to Love America” by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim: On the reasons to love an adopted country. 

The Landlord’s Tale. Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Why not share this poem which proclaims, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...”

America” by Claude McKay: Acknowledging the United States’ fraught past, Claude McKay confesses, “I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.”

The History of America” by Alicia Ostriker: The poet worries that America “does not actually care.”

Banneker” by Rita Dove: A poem about Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), a black man appointed to the commission that surveyed and laid out Washington, D.C.

Monuments” by Myra Sklarew: Like Rita Dove, Myra Sklarew pays homage to African Americans who helped build Washington, DC.

Fourth of July at Santa Ynez” by John Haines: A quiet poem that shows that not everyone celebrates this holiday the same way.

July 4th” by May Swenson: An analytical critique of our annual fireworks ceremonies, using wartime vocabulary.

Read more Independence Day Poems.

Browse our sampler of Political Poems.

AUDIO & PODCASTS

Canada Anemone” by Fleda Brown: A reading of Brown’s Fourth of July poem.

Obamapoetics” by Elizabeth Alexander: 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.

BLOG POSTS

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 1976 bicentennial.

I saved my most impersonal post for last.” by Javier Huerta

ARTICLES

This Land Is Our Land: As go America’s poets, so goes American democracy” by David Biespiel

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

100 Years of Poetry: The Magazine and War” by Abigail Deutsch

 

POETICS ESSAY

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.

TEACHING RESOURCE

Dream in Color: A Resource Guide for Elementary School Teachers” [pdf]: Includes Independence Day poems such as “Danitra’s Family Reunion” by Nikki Grimes.

 

 

Originally Published: July 1, 2010

COMMENTS (7)

On July 2, 2010 at 1:40pm Skip Zilla wrote:
Thank you, Becca Klaver, for collecting a
broad range of voices singing the songs of
America. Peace and justice and happiness
to you and all as we celebrate ourselves as
Americans and seek our participation in the
community of human beings around the
Earth.

On July 3, 2010 at 1:52pm ray gibbs wrote:
Tony Hoagland's dexterity & poetics of mind & poem (his "America") are fabulous & reasons enough my aspiration an American poet.

On July 4, 2010 at 6:21am ray gibbs wrote:
poetry ( his "America") or not, every community, country is the lesser, less safe without its Ginsberg.

On July 4, 2010 at 10:23pm ray gibbs wrote:
Baca's lived lament: "we go down quick...hands so long away from their tools...so long gone from their families, so long gone from life itself" reaches the "suffering" & "waste" our numberless "Immigrants in Our Own Land" of dreams & plenty.

On July 5, 2010 at 6:21am ray gibbs wrote:
Dove's "Banneker" beautiful, capturing, delicate; so pleasureable reading over & over.

On July 7, 2010 at 9:16am ray gibbs wrote:
Again, Baca's haunting poetics, his "Immigrants in Our Own Land", brings us to the cusp of confession or despair...the deep fissure between care or indifference.

On August 30, 2010 at 2:42am Owen wrote:
Amazing poetry! I wish these actually
were songs that were sung and heard
by more people. It would be amazing if
the popular songs in our country were
ones with these words, I would love to
share them on my So
ng of the Day blog, but sadly so
many of the songs that we hear today
lack any depth and have no grounding
or understanding of the history of our
country and the real struggles that
Americans had to live through to bring
us to today. I wish the great singers of
today really sang the great poems of
today.

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Biography

Becca Klaver is the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010) and the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost press, 2009). A founding editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, she holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and is currently a PhD student in Literatures in English at Rutgers University. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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