had prepared the poem "Dedication" to deliver at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. When buffeting winds and the sunlight's glare off the paper and snow made it impossible for him to read, however, the four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner recited another, shorter poem, "The Gift Outright," from memory instead. Although "The Gift Outright" was first published in 1942, Frost's 1961 recitation of it is not only frequently credited with popularizing the poem, but with setting the gold standard for inaugural poems as well.
"I'd understand completely if Blanco did lip-sync it," remarked a fellow poet, also citing the Frost scenario and the pressure of reading before such distinguished company. "But I don't think he did."
explained his decision by saying, "You can't play cellos in 25 degrees."
"It would be totally understandable," another spokesperson for the Marine Band said. "You try being Richard Blanco, standing up there as the youngest inaugural poet in history, trying to hold your paper in that type of cold. Paper just doesn't function the same way when the temperature drops to near freezing."
Said one, "Lip-sync? Lip-sync? Would Walt Whitman have lip-synced his barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world? I think not!"
"Well, I'm not so sure," replied another. "What if it was really bad weather? Can you yawp in 25 degrees?"
John Ashbery wouldn't have lip-synced. Allen Ginsberg wouldn't have lip-synced either. Nor would Adrienne Rich. This is what happens when you exclude radical poets and the avant-garde from consideration in events like these. Capitalism takes over, poets are turned into mouthpieces for ideology, and poetry becomes a simulation of itself if not a simulation of a simulation!"
Maya Angelou read "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993, some viewers reported a disconnect between Angelou's physical presence and the words they heard.
"I swear," said one commentator. "It looked like Angelou stopped speaking altogether, but the words just kept coming. I don't know how to explain it other than to say she was lip-syncing."
An inaugural poem historian acknowledged such conflicting experiences from 1993. "For some people," she explained, "Angelou's performance was nearly transcendent. But for others it was simply, as one of my peer reviewers once put it, 'the Maya Ange-low point' of inaugural verse."
Sunday Morning" reference lip-syncing.
"If you look closely at the manuscripts done by the youthful Stevens," he explains, "You'll see that the poem's final two lines don't in fact read 'Ambiguous undulations as they sink, / Downward to darkness, on extended wings,' as they do in final manuscript versions, but, rather, 'Ambiguous undulations as they sync, / Downward to darkness, on extended wings.' Stevens is very clearly tying the mystical earthly spirituality of the pigeons, which imitate but not entirely replicate the holy figure of the dove, to practices like lip-syncing. For if we're honest with ourselves, when it comes to matters of faith and belief, all most of us can ever do is mouth the words."
"Obviously," one poet remarked, "the line 'without prejudice, as these words break from my lips' is meant to signal the live delivery of the poem, with the presence of the poet's words troping the immediacy of the national moment to which all are summoned 'without prejudice,' as it were."
"Au contraire," another suggested, "That's the irony that makes Blanco's work so political. When Blanco the poet is lip-syncing that line and the words really aren't breaking from his lips, the performance undercuts the text and implies that the wind carrying those words is not doing so without prejudice, but with the prejudice that Blanco, as an immigrant, Latin@, and gay man has undoubtedly experienced in the U.S."
"I doubt," he concluded, "that John Ashbery could have done any better."