The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassisby Caroline Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis loved literature, especially poetry. "Once you can express yourself," she wrote, "you can tell the world what you want from it...All the changes in the world, for good or evil, were first brought about by words." Now, Caroline Kennedy shares her mother's favorite poems and the words behind her strong belief in the power of literature. The poems presented span the centuries and include works by such renowned authors as Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, Homer, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, E. E. Cummings, and Robert Frost. This volume also includes poems by Jacqueline Kennedy. The book is illustrated with photographs of the Kennedy family, and illuminated by Caroline's reflections on her mother's life and work. A wonderful volume for reading aloud or by yourself, a meaningful gift or keepsake, this book offers an intimate view of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' world, and a poignant glimpse into her heart.
- Hachette Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 8.62(h) x 0.75(d)
Read an Excerpt
The idea of America -- freedom, equality, possibility -- has been celebrated in poetry, song, political rhetoric, and judicial opinion. The poems that follow serenade America and explore the individual's role in shaping our national destiny. They describe heroes like Paul Revere, the American Everyman about whom Walt Whitman sings, and those who have been shut out of the American dream but whose struggles are given voice by Langston Hughes. These poems remind us that no matter who we are, we each have an opportunity to help create the kind of society we want to live in. For America's story is still unfolding -- in the words of Robert Frost, it is our country, "such as she was, such as she will become."
"Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow always reminds me of my grandmother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. When I was a child, she was the most patriotic person I knew. At family gatherings, she used to recite this poem from memory and encouraged (with varying degrees of success) her grandchildren to do the same. She was baptized around the corner from the Old North Church and grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. Since she had been born before 1900, to me it was perfectly possible that she might have even caught a glimpse of Paul Revere.
Grandma's recitation of the poem combined patriotism, her Irish antipathy toward the English, her love of language, and her conviction that one man's courage could change the course of history. She instilled in us the belief that perhaps, if the chance came again, we would be the one to inspire others, just like Paul Revere. (Of course, as my daughter recently reminded me, it was really the poet who inspired us since there were two other men who rode that night, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, whose names are largely forgotten.)
To me, the most meaningful poem in this section is Robert Frost's "The Gift Outright," which the poet recited at my father's inauguration. By asking Frost to read that day, my father expressed his belief in the power of language and connected the inaugural ceremony to an enduring tradition of using poetry, in a sense, to sanctify an occasion.
A snowstorm had blanketed the Capitol the night before, but the morning was glistening bright. When Frost stood to read the poem he had written for the occasion, the glare was so strong he couldn't see the words on the page. He recited "The Gift Outright" from memory. The contrast between his age and my father's youth, the poet's frailty and the power of his words gave the moment a special significance.
Three years later, at the dedication of a library named for Robert Frost, President Kennedy said, "The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation's greatness, but the man who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power, or power uses us…. When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."
Throughout her life, my mother took great pride in the role of poetry and the arts in my father's administration. She celebrated American arts and artists in the White House, believing, as my father did, that America's artistic achievements were equal to her political and military power, and that American civilization had come of age.
I Hear America Singing
by Walt Whitman
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day -- at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
America, the Beautiful
by Katherine Lee Bates
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Meet the Author
Caroline Kennedy serves as president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. She is the New York Times bestselling co-author of The Right to Privacy and In Our Defense with Ellen Alderman. She lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Caroline Kennedy has given us much more than a lovely remembrance of her mom. Mrs. O is one of our legendary First Ladies; the collection of her favorite poems emerges as part of her legacy to America and to history. The more we read, the more we understand not only Mrs. O and her times, but ourselves as Americans. Many thanks, Caroline.
Of this tribute to her mother Caroline Kennedy said, 'One of the greatest gifts my brother and I received from my mother was her love of literature and language. In this program, I have tried to include poems that reflect things that were important to her - a spirit of adventure, the worlds of imagination and nature, and the strength of love and family.' From 'For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration' by Robert Frost to 'Ode On A Grecian Urn' by John Keats, Ms. Kennedy's choices do reflect those elements. Poetry lovers will relish this collection which will undoubtedly hold many of their personal favorites. Among the poems found in the 'Adventure' section are 'The Isles of Greece,' by Lord Byron, selections from Shakespeare's 'Henry V,' and 'Song' by John Donne. Romance and love share the spotlight in portions of The Song Of Solomon, 'The Hill' by Rupert Brooke, and 'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love' by Christopher Marlowe. Narrators include many luminaries of stage and screen - Claire Bloom, B. D. Wong, Daniel Davis, and Jennifer Wiltsie. Readings by Ms. Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy add a very personal note to the narrative voices. Of special interest to admirers of the former First Lady will be three poems that she wrote: 'Sea Joy,' 'Thoughts' and 'Meanwhile In Massachusetts.'
Imagine opening this beautiful collection and finding not only NEW choices I have never read...such as Poems written by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis...and OLD favorites of mine too!!! The collection is gentle reading at its best and sprinkled with different subjects that can be enjoyed at different times and moods....A Beautiful Gift for a favorite person with the Holiday season coming up or ANYTIME!!!
Those who are critical of the selected poems as too pedestrian are missing the beauty of this book. These works spoke to the hearts of a great modern woman and her wonderful children. Poetry doesn't have to be deep or obtuse to be good. Each selection in this small collection is worth reading, and all the poetry contained here is approachable by anyone who can read or be read to. This glimpse into the soul of a family reveals something magical and touching about a woman who raised two remarkable children. Jacqueline Kennedy's children stood out as normal, solid citizens in a family and an era where that outcome was not necessarily likely. I am grateful to Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg for sharing this slice of her life and family with me.
Well, if you really have no idea how to find a book of poems, you might want to start here. But why not just go to a poetry site on the web, like the Academy of American Poets site, and find the poems you like best?
At a time when we could most use a positive sourse of inspiration, once again we look towards the grace of Jacqueline Onassis. Gone in the physical sense, but ever present in the sprit of this country, its history, and one of its most shinning citizens.This book coulbn't have come at a better time, like Jacqueline its timing is impeccable. There are poems in the book I hadn't thought of in years, and some I know by heart as well as a few surprises.Its so helpful to be reminded of the courage of this great woman, and I want to express my sincere thanks to her daughter for sharing with us the magic and healing power of poerty and her mother.
What a wonderful book. It is a must for all to enjoy. Im so delighted Carolone shared part of her life and the life of her mother with the public. I hope her message is understood and others will encourage thier children to learn and live through poetry.
Though I haven't read through the entire book yet, I hope...no, I pray, Maya Angelou's 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' is included.
I loved this book and was soo glad Caroline came out and did this book. She had such an appriciation for poems and poetry. She had a gift for writting them also. I loved this book.
Some readers may or may not be surprised by the unsophistication of literary taste reflected in this collection, given the anthologist's background. The bigger problem is the fact that too many of us who actually read a lot of poetry don't feel the need to own repeats of poems that we started learning in grade school....but hey, it all comes down to money, right?