Recently I attended a lecture about Irish “occasional poetry.” This doesn’t mean poetry written now and again; it means poetry written and performed for special occasions: holidays, commemorations, funerals and the like. The most obvious of these that comes to mind is “The Hill We Climb,” the poem commissioned for, written and performed by Amanda Gorman at President Biden’s inauguration.
I won’t get into a critique of the poem, except to say that I liked it on the whole, and that, like most people, I admire Ms. Gorman’s talents. Nor will I comment much on an infamous precursor, “Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander, performed at President Obama’s first inaugural in 2009. (Suffice to say that at the time I had a good rant about it with my favorite poet, Alexandra Burack, who also happens to be my cousin.)