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Culture

One to Watch: About Amanda Gorman

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At age 22, Amanda Gorman became ingrained in a part of our country’s history, earning the honor as the youngest inauguration poet ever. Her reading of “The Hill We Climb” was shared with the world in January, making an everlasting effect with its poignant and truthful message.

The 22-year-old has been lauded for her poetry prowess for nearly a decade. In 2014, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and three years later, she became the first National Youth Poet Laureate. For six minutes, Gorman was able to captivate the world, looking on as she carved out a place in history for herself.

Who is Amanda Gorman?

Before she stood on that podium in Washington D.C., Gorman had already established herself as a talented young poet in her own right. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, finding her passion for poetry at a young age. Gorman got her start in third-grade, according to the Los Angeles Times, after reading Ray Bradbury’s poem, “Dandelion Wine,” and from then on, she began journaling consistently. She started to gain traction as a teen through her work that centers on race, feminism, and struggles for civil rights. In 2015, one year after being named youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, she released her first collection of poetry, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough.”

Gorman revealed that while words seem to flow out of her effortlessly, the young poet struggled with a speech impediment and small stutter as a child, similar to President Joe Biden. She shared earlier that for most of her life up until she reached her twenties, she was unable to say the letter “r.”

Gorman said that writing was a form of self-expression for her, but also acted as a form of speech pathology for the poet. The more she recited her poetry and practiced spoken word, the better she got at pronouncing words that previously gave her trouble. She even cited “Hamilton” as a source of practice, using the repetitive “r” sound from songs like “Aaron Burr, Sir,” to work on tackling the challenge of pronouncing “r.”

Her personal mantra also caught the attention of the media, leaving many speechless at the weights of the words she tells herself before each performance: “I close my eyes and say, ‘I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke through chains and changed the world. They call me.’”

“The Hill We Climb”

Her appearance on Inauguration Day was no random act. When she was named the National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, the title took her across the country at various public events. It was during one of those performances at the Library of Congress that Dr. Jill Biden first heard her read a poem titled “In This Place (An American Lyric)” in the wake of a white supremacist march in Charlottesville. Three years later, Jill Biden selected Gorman to be the fourth inaugural poet in history.

Gorman was not given any barriers for her speech, allowed the freedom to speak freely on the issues that have plagued our country as we moved into a new era of America. She made a lasting impression through her powerful poem, touching on the turmoil our country has been through, not only recently, but historically with threads of hope for change and unity weaved within. Gorman finished the poem after the insurrection at the capitol, telling the New York Times, “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.”

In “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman referenced the “American Dream,” shaping the futures of young Americans, and our path to becoming a more united nation. 

Beyond her words, Gorman made headlines with her sartorial choices, each a calculated choice by the poet. She told Vogue that she weaved her symbolism into her outfit: a vibrant yellow jacket accessorized with a bold red headband, both by Prada. Oprah Winfrey, who had previously gifted former inaugural poet Maya Angelou the outfit she wore, continued to tradition. She donned a ring adorned with a caged bird to pay homage to Angelou’s iconic “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The yellow coat was a nod to Dr. Jill Biden, noting that the first lady had seen a video of her wearing yellow and said she loved it.

What’s next?

While Gorman will forever have a place in history, she also has big plans moving forward to continue to build upon her creative foundation. Fans of her original works will be able to enjoy more in the near future. She has two forthcoming books that are set to be published September 21, “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems” and “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem.” A special edition version of “The Hill We Climb” along with a foreword by Winfrey is set to publish on March 16.

She’s the writer of “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems,” and “Change Sings A Children’s Anthem,” set to publish on September 21. Additionally, a special edition version of the poem Gorman read during the inauguration, accompanied by a forward from Oprah Winfrey, is scheduled to be published on March 16. Due to high demand from readers, her publishers announced that it will print one million copies of each of her unreleased titles to keep up.

To top off the strong start to her year, Gorman will also deliver an original poem before the Super Bowl, sharing her voice and message to the masses once again.

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