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Poem Sampler

July 4th Poems

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

With a Little Help from Dr. Angelou: Includes Independence Day poems such as “Danitra’s Family Reunion” by Nikki Grimes.
 

 

 

  • 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...

Poem Sampler

July 4th Poems

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

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