May 12th, 2009
03:50 PM ET

The poetry of Barack Obama

Program Note: Tune in tonight to see tonight's Poetry Slam at the White House on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

The New York Times

Following are two poems by Barack Obama that were published in the Spring 1981 issue of “Feast,” a 51-page student literary journal that described itself as "a semi-annual journal of short poetry and fiction collected from the Occidental College community.” The journal is no longer published, according to a college spokesman.


Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,

Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Two fingers.
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shrink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ’cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.


Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. maritza a

    He wrote these poems over twenty years ago. Well done!! Sensitive, and regreshing.

    May 12, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  2. Kim, Lincoln, NE

    I would LOVE to hear him read these out loud. Well, maybe not the second one, that struck me as a"workshop exercise." The first one makes me want to learn more about his life. Not a bad poem at all.

    May 12, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  3. Amy N

    Love it!

    May 12, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  4. SullivanAnu

    POP is a deep piece indeed: seems to be explaining a touching relationship filled with love and sincerity. However, it's the code in UNDERGROUND that i failed to crack.


    May 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    I don't think Maya Angelou or any of our other American poets have to worry about competition from Obama. Obama needs to stick to politics.

    May 12, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Rebekah

    I liked the first one, "Pop", a lot more than "Underground".
    "Pop" was definitely a nice look into Barack Obama's head – it kind of lets you know how he thought of things back when he was younger and somehow I'm not surprised that he wrote in free form poetry – it's just as informal and expressive as he is.

    Thanks for posting these poetry links!

    May 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  7. Sharon

    well, well,well. he truly is a man for all seasons

    May 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  8. Vickie


    May 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  9. lam0nt Austin

    Whoa, touching. Oncore!!!! oncore!!! snaps, snaps, snaps,!!!!!
    where can I get more?

    Tucson Az

    May 12, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  10. earle,florida

    Wow! I am so proud to have a commander, and chief with so much compassion: how is it we can be blinded by the light but feel it's warmth; the soft embrace of a child in mother's arms; how is it that a child coalesce such visionary charm looking through a prism of time past,and present; glowingly knowing only the comfort brought on by this hallow state of magnificent futures to come,... Go Obama

    May 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  11. tlesa

    Vivid imagery capturing a moment in time; it's deep.

    May 12, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  12. Raymond Lopera

    Ilove self expression,you can study certain individual characteristics or genius.I can see the President trying to reach out.Lovely.

    May 12, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  13. Cindy

    And this is important news because...!?


    May 12, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  14. Chervone

    That was sad.

    May 12, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  15. adelina

    i dont get it

    May 12, 2009 at 4:12 pm |