Meet the 22-Year-Old Poet Reading at Biden’s Inauguration
Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles may be young, but she’s been an acclaimed poet for years. And after Jill Biden saw Gorman’s Library of Congress poetry reading, she recommended her as inaugural poet. Gorman will read her new poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
Poets.com reports that Gorman joins a select group of inaugural poets that includes Robert Frost (at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration), Maya Angelou and Miller Williams (at Bill Clinton’s inauguration), and Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco (at Barack Obama’s inauguration).
Gorman was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at age 16, and the National Youth Poet Laureate when she was a 19-year-old student at Harvard, according to the New York Times.
She’s read her poetry in front of audiences at the Library of Congress, at Boston’s Symphony Hall for the 2019 Fourth of July celebration, and at a tribute to the Empire State Building. Last April, she shared her poem “The Miracle of Morning” which tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, on CBS.
“I want to create poems that stand the test of time and counter the fragmented news culture of today,” she told the New York Times.
The theme of the inauguration is America United. “When I heard that was their vision, that made it very easy for me to say, great, that’s also what I wanted to write about in my poem, about America united, about a new chapter in our country,” she told the Times.
But she was drafting the poem at the time of the January 6 Capitol insurrection, and she wanted to include lines that recognized the turmoil in the US.
She told CNN, “It doesn’t gloss over all that America is and all that we’ve been challenged with. It’s really sitting in the wounds and the scars that we have, so that we can then move onto healing and move on the progress that needs to happen.”
Gorman shared a few lines of her inaugural poem with the 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.
She’s been reciting her speech repeatedly before she performs it onstage alongside the Bidens, Lady Gaga, and Jennifer Lopez, and in front of millions of TV viewers. As someone with a speech impediment, practicing is key. CNN reports that her speech impediment has made performing “terrifying.”
In her 2019 TED-Ed student talk, she shares the mantra she uses before she reads her poetry:
“I am the daughter of Black writers, who are descended from Freedom Fighters, who broke the chains who changed the world. They call me.”