Amanda Gorman Will Become the Youngest Inaugural Poet in the United States
Credits: Kelia Anne
Black women continue to achieve greatness and make history. Amanda Gorman is no stranger to that. At just 22 years old, Gorman is set to recite a poem at the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th; she will be the sixth poet to perform at the event. She shall be listed alongside poets Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander, and Richard Blanco, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the United States.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Gorman enjoyed reading and writing from a young age. As a child, she had a speech impediment which was something that she had to learn to overcome. According to NPR, “She had difficulty saying certain letters of the alphabet — the letter R was especially tough — which caused her to have to constantly ‘self-edit and self-police’."
She went on to study sociology at Harvard University and graduated cum laude. In 2017, as reported by Poets & Writers, Gorman was named the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States at 19 years old. Her writing has led her to amazing opportunities from performing at the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Center, to receiving invitations to the White House from former President Obama.
Gorman’s poetry tends to explore the intersections of race, marginalization, and feminism. For the inauguration, Gorman faces the challenge of creating a piece that renders hope and unity during a time when America is dealing with the deadly pandemic and political violence. She wrote part of her poem while watching Pro-Trump extremists riot at the U.S. Capitol on her television, a jarring event that makes its way into her work.
She shared with the Los Angeles Times, “I wasn’t trying to write something in which those events were painted as an irregularity or different from an America that I know,” said Gorman. “America is messy. It’s still in its early development of all that we can become. And I have to recognize that in the poem. I can’t ignore that or erase it. And so I crafted an inaugural poem that recognizes these scars and these wounds. Hopefully, it will move us toward healing them.”
On Wednesday, Gorman will perform her work titled “The Hill We Climb.” She shared an excerpt of her piece with the New York Times: “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, / Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. / And this effort very nearly succeeded. / But while democracy can be periodically delayed, / It can never be permanently defeated.”
“In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years,” Gorman told the New York Times. “But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal,” she said. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
Credits: Kelia Anne
“Now more than ever, the United States needs an inaugural poem,” Gorman continued. “Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.”
The younger generation of creatives continuously prove to the world that there is no age restriction to attain success and define moments of history. Gorman will continue the tradition of her predecessors and speak to America during a dark time, allowing the words of poetry to provide a sliver of light and deliver a message of healing.