Amanda Gorman and “The Hill We Climb”

22 year-old Amanda Gorman takes the country by storm, becoming the youngest ever U.S. inaugural poet.

Amanda Gorman and

The inauguration of the 46th president Joe Biden will likely be remembered as a major event in American history. In some ways, the event was unsettling—with sparse attendance due to the pandemic, and a heightened sense of fear created by the blatant domestic terrorism that made history only twenty days before. But for many, Biden’s inauguration meant a sigh of relief, the first good thing amongst a constant flood of bad news.  

Amongst the celebration, one voice stood out as 22 year-old Amanda Gorman took the stage: becoming the youngest inaugural poet in American history. 

 

Background

Amanda Gorman, age 22

Amanda Gorman was born and raised in Los Angeles by a single mother. Unlike many of the people who make headlines in the modern media, she wasn’t born into immense wealth or status; and while it may sound cliche, the status she holds today is something that was achieved through hard work and talent alone. In 2014, Gorman was awarded the title of Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. Later, she went on to become the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. She published her first poetry collection in 2015 and graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in sociology.

These accomplishments—already impressive for someone of her age—take on an even greater significance when taking into account the auditory and speech impediments that Gorman has overcome. Even as an undergraduate at Harvard, Gorman still had immense difficulty in pronouncing the letter ‘r’. But when she took the stage on January 25th, Gorman was able to deliver her poem flawlessly—while an entire country watched. 

 

The Hill We Climb

Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem The Hill We Climb is many things. Most of all, it is a love letter to a broken country trying to mend and heal.

The poem talks about the partisanship and division that has splintered America, but also the hope and unity that can be achieved. The “hill we climb” is the victory we will one day achieve by coming together as a country in spite of our differences. It is realizing that “being American is more than a pride we inherit/ It’s the past we step into/ and how we repair it.”

“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. It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

— Amanda Gorman

Gorman’s poem manages to do something extremely difficult—celebrating America without ignoring its faults. While so much of modern “patriotism” depends on blind support for outdated beliefs and policies, Gorman’s poem changes this standard. 

Gorman describes her intentions with the poem in an article with the New York Times. “In my poem,” she says, “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. It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

The poem ends with the lines that have become part of history, quoted and repeated by thousands across the country—that there is light, “If only we’re brave enough to see it/ If only we’re brave enough to be it.” 

 

Future Projects

Gorman’s career has blown up since she first delivered her inaugural poem. Almost overnight, she amassed millions of followers on social media. If you search her name on Instagram, you can find hundreds of digital paintings and visual renditions of her work. As of late, she has even signed a modeling contract with IMG Models. And on February 8th, she delivered her poem Chorus of the Captains at the Super Bowl—the first time in history that poetry has even held a place at this event.

The cover of Amanda Gorman’s upcoming children’s book, “Change Sings”

In the future, Gorman is releasing two books with Penguin House: a special copy of her inaugural poem, and a children’s book titled Change Sings. On her Instagram, Gorman describes Change Sings “as a children’s anthem to remind young readers that they have the power to shape the world.” 

Only weeks after taking the country by surprise, young activist and poet Amanda Gorman shows no sign of stopping. And in a world where rich white businessmen are still the picture of success—her rise to prominence is an inspiration for young girls everywhere.

 

 

 

Citations

Alter, Alexandra. “Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment, in Verse.” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/books/amanda-gorman-inauguration-hill-we-climb.html.

“Amanda Gorman.” Poets.org. www.poets.org/poet/amanda-gorman.

Amanda Gorman. www.theamandagorman.com/.

Barajas, Julia. “How a 22-year-old L.A. native became Biden’s inauguration poet.” Los Angeles Times, 20 Jan. 2021, www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2021-01-17/amanda-gorman-biden-inauguration-poet%3f_amp=true.

Holland, Oscar. “Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman signs with IMG models.” CNN style, 26 January 2021, www.cnn.com/style/article/amanda-gorman-img-models/index.html.

“Read: Youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem.” CNN politics, 20 Jan. 2021,  www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/amanda-gorman-inaugural-poem-transcript/index.html.

Tsioulcas, Anastasia. “Amanda Gorman — And Poetry — Will Be Part Of Super Bowl LV.” NPR, 29 Jan. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/01/29/962030186/amanda-gorman-and-poetry-will-be-part-of-super-bowl-lv.

“Watch | Super Bowl LV: Full Text of Amanda Gorman’s Poem ‘Chorus of the Captains’.” Haaretz, 8 February 2021, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/super-bowl-lv-full-text-of-amanda-gorman-s-poem-chorus-of-the-captains-1.9521527.