Amanda Gorman captures light in new presidency

Two weeks ago, the poet Amanda Gorman was struggling to finish a new work titled The Hill We Climb. She was feeling exhausted, and she worried she wasn’t up to the monumental task she faced: composing a poem about national unity to recite at President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration.

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview.“It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”

Gorman managed to write a few lines a day and was about halfway through the poem on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed into the halls of Congress, some bearing weapons and Confederate flags. She stayed awake late into the night and finished the poem, adding verses about the apocalyptic scene that unfolded at the Capitol that day:


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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.


But none of her predecessors faced the challenge that Gorman did. She set out to write a poem that would inspire hope and foster a sense of collective purpose, at a moment when Americans are reeling from a deadly pandemic, political violence and partisan division.

“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. 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.”

On Wednesday, as she recited “The Hill We Climb,” in front of the Capitol in the bright sunlight, her voice animated and full of emotion, Gorman described her background as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” who can dream of being president one day, “only to find herself reciting for one.” She spoke about the weight of loss that the country has endured, in verses that reflected the fragile state of the country. Watch below:

When day comes, we ask ourselves:

Where can we find light

In this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.


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Reading lines that echoed the theme of the inauguration, “America United,” she spoke of the possibility of unity and reconciliation.

When day comes, we ask ourselves:

Where can we find light

In this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow, we do it.

Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed

A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

Gorman fell in love with poetry at a young age and distinguished herself quickly as a rising talent. Raised in Los Angeles, where her mother teaches middle school, she would write in journals at the playground. At 16, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles.

A few years later, when she was studying sociology at Harvard, she became the National Youth Poet Laureate, the first person to hold the position.

Sales of her book on Amazon are skyrocketing since her reading.


SOURCE: NY TIMES

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