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Obamas To Host Poetry Jam At White House

This evening, the president and first lady will host what Michelle Obama's press office describes as "an evening celebrating poetry, music and the spoken word in the East Room of the White House."

That's right: The first family is hosting a poetry jam.

Guests for the event include James Earl Jones, novelist Michael Chabon, jazz singer Esperanza Spalding, pianist Eric Lewis and Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of Broadway's "In The Heights." It will be streamed live beginning at 7:45 pm ET at

In December, Mr. Obama said he and his wife planned to "open up the White House and remind people this is the people's house." He specifically said he would host performances of jazz and classical music as well as poetry readings.

The Obama White House has previously hosted concerts from Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and others.

As White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers made clear in an email to Lynn Sweet, tonight's event is not a poetry "slam" – which is different than a poetry "jam."

"Slam is a competition," she noted. "There will be no competition."

Here, via the New York Times, is a poem by President Obama that was published in the Spring 1981 issue of Occidental College poetry and fiction journal "Feast." It is entitled "Underground."

Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Rushing water,
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.