friday feast: what jackie knew

“If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a better place in which to live.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“Writing helps you to express your deepest feelings. Once you can express yourself you can tell the world what you want from it or how you would like to change it. All the changes in the world, for good or evil, were first brought about by words.” ~ Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis


When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was little, she’d visit her grandfather every Wednesday after dance lessons. Do you know what they did together? Memorized poetry.

In her preface to The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Hyperion, 2001), Caroline Kennedy says, “One of the greatest gifts my brother and I received from my mother was her love of literature and language.”

Their family tradition was to choose or compose, then write out and illustrate, a poem for their mother each holiday and birthday. These were saved in a big scrapbook (wouldn’t you just love to see it), and some of JFK, Jr.’s, and Caroline’s selections are included in the anthology.

As I read through the poems, I gained a good sense of Jackie’s sensibility. Her taste in poetry — e.e. cummings, Countee Cullen, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, Dickinson, and Yeats, to name a few, was as flawless and refined as her taste in fashion, interior design, and music. Though I had read many of these classic poems before, this time they somehow felt more intimate and significant, knowing they were personal favorites of someone I’ve long admired.

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