A speech is a “tone poem”

A Poet Laureate and two White House speechwriters talk about the connection between speechwriting and poetry.

Last week I attended “Poets at the Podium,” a panel discussion on the relationship between poetry and political speechwriting, in Chicago.

Panelists at the Poetry Foundation/Chicago Council on Global Affairs event were former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, former President Bush 41 speechwriter Mary Kate Cary and former President Obama speechwriter David Litt.

It was Litt who made the remark that best connected the two forms.

“A speech is a tone poem,” Litt’s former boss, the former President Clinton speechwriter Jeff Shesol once told him. “I still don’t know exactly what he meant by that,” Litt added, “but I suspect he was right.”

So do I. —DM

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