Amanda Gorman will become the youngest introductory poetess in US history today as she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President-in-Office Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Los Angeles resident and the daughter of a schoolteacher began writing at an early age in an attempt to cope with speech impediment. Her writing practice began, and at age 14, she joined WriteGirl, a Los Angeles-based organization that helps teenage girls discover the power of their voice through creative writing. Gorman attributes the group̵
At the age of 16, she was named the poet’s youth laureate in Los Angeles, and a few years later, while studying sociology at Harvard, she became the poet’s first national youth laureate.
Gorman was invited to recite at the opening at the request of Jill Biden, the arriving first lady who had seen the young poet read in the Library of Congress, and offered to read something at the opening in late December.
For the past few weeks, Gorman has been writing several lines a day, and she finished writing late on the night of Jan. 6 when pro-Trump rebels stormed the Capitol building.
Her poem “The Hill We Climb” will be in line with the theme of the swearing-in ceremony calling for national unity during an unprecedented illness, death and political division in the country. In research on his work, Gorman drew inspiration from the speeches of American leaders during other historical times of division, including Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I had this huge thing, perhaps one of the most important things I will ever do in my career,” she told The New York Times. “It was like if I tried to climb this mountain at once, I would just faint.”
Gorman will join Maya Angelou and Robert Frost in the small group of poets invited to the presidential inauguration. To prepare for Wednesday’s event, she spoke with two previous inaugural poets, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, for advice.
Blanco offered comforting words, Gorman told the New York Times when he said he was “just not one of us upstairs, but a presentation of American poetry.”
“Now more than ever, the United States needs an introductory poem,” Gorman said. “Poetry is usually the touchstone we return to when we need to remember the history we stand on and the future we stand for.”
Gorman’s future is bright: he will soon have two books, including the children’s book Change Changes, which will be published in September. She also announced her intention to run for president in 2036, according to the LA Times, the first election cycle when she will be old enough to do so. The poet acknowledges the political career and achievements of newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris as the inspiration for her plans.
“There is no denying that winning for her is a victory for all of us who would like to present ourselves as colorful women in the office,” Gorman told the LA Times. “It makes it more thoughtful. Once little girls see it, little girls can be that. Because they can be anything they want to be, but this performance to make a dream come true in the first place – even for me. “
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