July 4th Poems

Cookouts, fireworks, and history lessons recounted in poems, articles, and audio.
Image of fireworks

For Independence Day, we bring you this wide-ranging selection of poems, articles, blog posts, and podcasts. These poets form a chorus of many Americas.

  • Emma Lazarus

    This famous Statue of Liberty sonnet famously welcomes “homeless, tempest-tost” newcomers.

  • Jimmy Santiago Baca

    The poet tallies harsh realities that sometimes follow the Statue of Liberty's greeting.

  • John Brehm

    The identities and meanings of America explored in metaphors.

  • Walt Whitman

    In Whitman’s vision, American workers sing “what belongs to him or her and to none else.”

  • Gregory Djanikian

    The poet recounts the oddities of a traditional American July 4th cookout with his immigrant parents.

  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    This poem lists so many things that our country is still waiting for.

  • Allen Ginsberg

    This famous poem begins “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. / America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956. / I can’t stand my own mind.”

    • Appeared in Poetry Magazine Anthem
    Susan Hahn

    Optimism wrestles with frustration in Susan Hahn’s fin-de-siècle anthem.

  • Tony Hoagland
  • Shirley Geok-Lin Lim

    On the reasons to love an adopted country.

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Why not share this poem which proclaims, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...”

  • Claude McKay

    Acknowledging the United States’ fraught past, Claude McKay confesses, “I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.”

  • Alicia Ostriker

    The poet worries that America “does not actually care.”

  • Rita Dove

    A poem about Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), a black man appointed to the commission that surveyed and laid out Washington, D.C.

  • Myra Sklarew

    Like Rita Dove, Myra Sklarew pays homage to African Americans who helped build Washington, DC.

  • John Haines

    A quiet poem that shows that not everyone celebrates this holiday the same way.

  • May Swenson

    An analytical critique of our annual fireworks ceremonies, using wartime vocabulary.

  • From Audio Poem of the Day

    A reading of Brown’s Fourth of July poem.

  • From Poetry Off the Shelf

    Alexander on how the Derek Walcott-toting, June Jordan-quoting president will affect poets and poetry.

  • From Poetry Off the Shelf

    Walt Whitman and the politics of the Civil War.

  • Langston Hughes

    An historical examination of the trajectory of African American poetry, beginning with Lucy Terry, a slave, in 1746, and continuing through Phillis Wheatley and Paul Laurence Dunbar to the rising generation of African American poets in the 1950s and 60s.