Writing Mentors · Young Writers

Discovering Poet Amanda Gorman

Good afternoon my friends,

As of today I will be posting weekly on Wednesdays. Also, I’m experimenting with showing the full posts on the blog homepage instead of excerpts; let me know which style you like more in the comments.

Poet Amanda Gorman

Last week we discovered writer Marge Piercy, a feminist and prolific writer who has published 20+ novels and poetry collections. I just got one of her books from the library, and at some point in February I will be following up with a review of the novel. At this moment I can’t remember the title of it. Also in February, I’ll be reviewing a novel by another writer and poet we studied earlier this month, Haruki Murakami. I am excited to see what the writings of these two edgy successful writers can teach us, and how their writings resonate with me as a reader.

Since it is still January and we just recently had the Presidential Inauguration of 2021, I’d like to shed even more spotlight, if possible, on the amazingly talented young poet who read at the Inauguration, Amanda Gorman. Her poem captivated me during the ceremony, and I wanted to capture her on my blog before time chugs on.

You can read more about Amanda Gorman here.

5 more poems to listen to from Amanda Gorman
Poet Amanda Gorman reading The Hill We Climb at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration
Incredible: A Poem By Amanda Gorman | PORTER
First Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman

She is an inspiration!

Just look at this lady! She’s only 22 and she’s already a National Poet Laureate, was the first-ever American Youth Poet Laureate, read at the 2021 Inauguration, and will also read at the Superbowl 2021. Not only that – her fashion is on point (she really seems to love yellow)!! I am so impressed and intrigued by this person. No matter which way you fall on the political spectrum, you have to admit that this woman has to be very talented and brave to be out on these big stages reading her work at such a young age.

Not only that, this woman is a representative and a torchlight for people with disabilities and people of color. She shows that you can pursue your dreams no matter what obstacles may be facing you! According to her Wikipedia, she has an auditory processing disorder, is sensitive to sounds, and used to have a speech impediment. Not to mention the systemic racism that all people of color have to go up against, which 2020 only served to highlight (especially in the USA). And she STILL gets up there to recite her work on the stage!! Wow.

The Hill We Climb, Poem

Here is her Inaugural poem The Hill We Climb, just as a reminder:

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.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast,

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,

and the norms and notions

of what just is

isn’t always just-ice.

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.

We the successors of a country and a time

where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes we are far from polished.

Far from pristine.

But that doesn’t mean we are

striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge a union with purpose,

to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us,

but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,

that even as we grieved, we grew,

that even as we hurt, we hoped,

that even as we tired, we tried,

that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat,

but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time,

then victory won’t lie in the blade.

But in all the bridges we’ve made,

that is the promise to glade,

the hill we climb.

If only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it’s the past we step into

and how we repair it.

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.

In this truth,

in this faith we trust.

For while we have our eyes on the future,

history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption

we feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter.

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert,

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

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.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain,

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy,

and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west.

We will rise from the windswept northeast,

where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.

We will rise from the sunbaked south.

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful.

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid,

the new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman, 2020
Poet Amanda Gorman, 22, will read at Biden inaugural

What stands out to me

Now, that’s a mighty long poem, and I don’t particularly want to analyze it, because 1) I don’t want to get political on this blog, and 2) This is not an English Literature class in college or high school. But I would just like to share some things that stood out to me about it:

I love how, in the video of her reciting it, Gorman speaks very clearly, and with a very crisp, exacting rhythm. I think this is so important to poetry, and can make or break the moment when you read your work aloud, for a poet. I took some poetry in college, and reading it out loud was often the most intimidating part; not only because you’re being vulnerable and sharing your work, but also because if you get the rhythm or cadence off, it can come out sounding all wrong.

Amanda Gorman | Boston Pops July 4th
Gorman in Boston Pops: America’s Orchestra, July 2020

Secondly I’d like to just say, wow! I really love how Gorman’s poem rhymes, but neither is it hit-over-your-head style, too obvious. There’s a subtlety to the rhyming, where you ear appreciates it extra. It’s soothing and peaceful to hear a rhyme, in my opinion, just as we are soothed by seeing symmetrical things or hearing a song note that ends a line on the same note it began. These are the subtleties and abstract edges of poetry and song where they sortof blur together, and something we don’t deal with as much in novel-writing. But they’re equally as important as discussing and debating over character motivations, plotholes, cliches and other novelist concerns.

2021’s creative inspirational figure

Last but not least, I am just so inspired by Amanda Gorman. The fact that she doesn’t let her disabilities or systemic racism stop her. The fact that she has gotten so far in such short time inspires me to keep going in my writing, to not put myself in any box of any kind, to not listen to any limitation my Inner Editor or perfectionist may be saying, and just. keep. writing.

Share your thoughts in the comments!

What did you think of Amanda Gorman and her poem? Have you read her debut book, “Change Sings”? Let me know what you think in the comments! And here is her official website.

Until next time,

Chaitanya

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