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Frequently Asked Questions

 

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1. Who was the first United States president to write a book of poetry?
2. I heard that George Bush wrote a poem to his wife in which he called her "my lump in the bed." Is this true?
3. How many poets have read or recited poems at U.S. presidential inaugurations?


1. Who was the first United States president to write a book of poetry?

John Quincy Adams, whose epic poem Dermot MacMorrogh or the Conquest of Ireland was published in 1832, was the first U.S. president to write a book of poetry. Adams's shorter verse was collected and published posthumously in the book Poems of Religion and Society (1848). In 1995, Jimmy Carter's Always a Reckoning, and Other Poems (New York: Times Books) became the first collection of poems published by a U.S. president during his lifetime. Always a Reckoning was published fourteen years after Carter's final year in office.

2. I heard that George Bush wrote a poem to his wife in which he called her "my lump in the bed." Is this true?

No. The misconception that this poem was written by George W. Bush can, ironically, be attributed to First Lady Laura Bush. In her prefatory remarks at the October 3, 2003 National Book Festival Gala, Mrs. Bush told attendees:

"President Bush is a great leader and husband - but I bet you didn't know, he is also quite the poet. Upon returning home last night from my long trip, I found a lovely poem waiting for me. Normally, I wouldn't share something so personal, but since we're celebrating great writers, I can't resist."

Here is the poem that Mrs. Bush read:

Dear Laura,

Roses are red, violets are blue, oh my lump in the bed, how I've missed you.

Roses are redder, bluer am I, seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.

The dogs and the cat they miss you too, Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe.

The distance my dear has been such a barrier, next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.

Although the poem is written in the voice of President Bush, and Mrs. Bush herself said the poem was written by her husband, it turns out Laura was playing a small joke on her listeners. During the December 28, 2003 broadcast of Meet the Press, on which Mrs. Bush was a guest, she responded to Tim Russert's playful query about who wrote the poem by saying:

"Well, of course, he [George W. Bush] didn't really write the poem. But a lot of people really believed that he did. That evening at the dinner, what some woman from across the table said: 'You just don't know how great it is to have a husband who would write a poem for you.'"

The true author of this poem remains unknown; Mrs. Bush may have written it herself, or allowed a White House staff member to compose it.

3. How many poets have read or recited poems at U.S. presidential inaugurations?

Five poets have read or recited poems at U.S. presidential inaugurations:

In addition, James Dickey read ''The Strength of Fields'' at Jimmy Carter's January 19, 1977, inaugural gala at the Kennedy Center.

 

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  January 22, 2013
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