Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day — which is observed on Jan. 21 this year — poet Richard Blanco shared some of his favorite works engaging with King's life and legacy. Blanco is the nation's fifth presidential inaugural poetand author, most recently, of the collaboration "Boundaries."

Blanco read his poem "St. Louis: Prayer Before Dawn," which discusses the social, political and economic disparities between two St. Louis neighborhoods, one predominantly white, and one predominantly black. The poem includes references to prayers and Biblical passages, such as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which Blanco said are a nod to King's role as a pastor and activist.

"Those two are some of my favorite prayers and passages, and [I was] also thinking about how some of the civil rights movement is rooted in Christianity, and thinking about how to have a discussion about equality and about civil rights was through the Church ... I thought that was a way of paying homage to that idea or to that history," he explained.

Blanco also shared "won't you celebrate with me" by Lucille Clifton, which explores her identity as an African-American woman.

"Her poems are very empowering," he said. "They scream at you, but they make you want to shout and celebrate as well."

For further reading, Blanco recommended "Interpretation of a Poem By Frost" by Thylias Moss.

"It's sort of a sarcastic parody of Robert Frost ... and subverts that whole poem in terms of race, prejudice, and womanhood and gender," he said.