Story at a glance
- Amanda Gorman is set to become the youngest inaugural poet in memory.
- Her poem “The Hill We Climb” was inspired by the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
- The Black writer and activist has covered race and racism in her work.
Amanda Gorman was just a few years old when she began writing. She was 16 when she became a youth delegate for the United Nations and 19 when she became the nation's first youth poet laureate.
Now 22, the award-winning writer and graduate of Harvard University will become the youngest inaugural poet in memory as President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
She finished the poem, titled "The Hill We Climb," just about a week before Inauguration Day, inspired by the insurrection of the United States Capitol by President Trump's supporters.
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“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” she told The Associated Press. And while she won't refer directly to Jan. 6, she said, "The poem isn't blind. It isn't turning your back to the evidence of discord and division."
Neither does she, a Black woman and activist who has written about race and racism both in her professional work, including her 2015 book "The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough," and on her personal accounts. Her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric),” which was displayed at the Morgan Library and Museum in 2018, addressed the racist march in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
“Tyrants fear the poet.
Now that we know it
we can’t blow it.
We owe it
to show it
not slow it,” she read at the 2017 inaugural reading of U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith.
As the Capitol was under attack, Gorman took to Twitter.
Unarmed black people have been killed in our own homes, our own cars, our own schools. Meanwhile white protesters storm the US capitol. Racial equality doesn't mean the death of these white protesters. Equality means that those black hearts should've been beating today.— Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) January 6, 2021
Gorman is hypersensitive to sound, she told The New York Times, and had a speech impediment in her adolescence that led her to poetry, she said in an essay for the Huffington Post in 2017. On Wednesday, she will speak before the entire nation, following in the footsteps of her predecessors, who she thanked on Twitter.
“The three of us are together in mind, body and spirit,” she told The Associated Press.
This won't be her first trip to Washington, having performed at the White House at the invitation of former President Obama as well as the Library of Congress. And she doesn’t intend for it to be her last.
Sharing presidential aspirations herself, Gorman told The Associated Press, “I’m going to tell Biden that I’ll be back."
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