At the inauguration of President Joe Biden, 22 year-old poet Amanda Gorman delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb” to millions of Americans. The poem was perfectly fit for the moment in which it was delivered, while Gorman’s radiant youth and passion for her art added to the power of her words.
Gorman writes, “ We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:/ A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free/ We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.”
A reflection of this quote herself, Gorman as already had a major impact on the American public at the very young age of 22. A graduate of Harvard last year, she studied sociology. She was the National Youth Poet Laureate from 2017-2018.
“The Hill We Climb” was celebrated instantly. There was an immediate impact made as Gorman delivered her poem to the public. She was trending on Twitter, her name became a suggested search on Google and she was celebrated by writers and celebrities on social media.
Amanda Gorman is on the road to becoming a poetry pop star. Her enchanting presence and strong delivery of her work creates a moving artistic experience. Because, after all, poetry is meant to be heard.
In an interview with former First Lady Michelle Obama, Gorman states, “Poetry is already cool. Where we run into trouble is often we are looking through such a tight pinhole of what poems can be. Specifically we’re looking at dead white men.”
Gorman explained, “Those are the poems that are taught in school and referred to as classics. We really need to break out of the pathology that poetry is only owned by certain elites.”
“Where we can start is highlighting and celebrating poets who reflect humanity in all of its diverse colors and breadth,” Gorman said.
While the classics are certainly something to be studied and valued, Gorman’s presence at the inauguration demanded that the public take notice of what poetry can be and is right now. Poetry will always continue to exist as an art form, but changes in trend just like clothing. I hope that Gorman’s staggering success will inspire action within the literary community to seek out work from younger people with voices that are under published on a wide scale.
Young people can and do write beautiful poems. It is not a question of ability when it comes to many young artists, but is a question of connectivity: meeting the right people, having the means to pay submission fees, being able to afford higher education and so much more.
The world’s reaction to Amanda Gorman brings me hope for the commercial success of books of poetry. I hope that her success will lead the way for more young, Black poets, so that they might be able to share their creations with more people.
In “The Hill We Climb”, Gorman writes,
“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
I hope that we are brave enough to see it and be it.