"We Will Never Again Sow Division": Who is Amanda Gorman?

Pip Garvey reflects on the incredible performance of young American poet Amanda Gorman at Biden's inauguration

Pip Garvey
2nd February 2021
On the 20th January 2021, shortly after 5pm GMT, a remarkable young woman took her position on the podium outside the US Capitol Building and recited her poem, 'The Hill We Climb', surrounded by America’s former leaders and the newly inaugurated President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Speaking with such profound grace and vigour, I truly believe that every person listening to the performance was enamoured by her words. Some may even argue, and by some, I mean me, that it was the most memorable moment of the entire ceremony. But who is this incredible, young sensation?

Twenty-two-year-old poet and activist, Amanda Gorman, was born in California and graduated with a BA in Sociology from Harvard University just last year. Whilst studying, she became the first person to be titled ‘National Youth Poet Laureate’ in 2017 and after a couple of years, was recognised by the now-First Lady, Dr Jill Biden, who was impressed after hearing one of Gorman's poems at the Library of Congress. She was later asked to read at Joe Biden’s Presidential inauguration, making Gorman the youngest inaugural poet in US history. Her achievements certainly make me question how much I have achieved over the last couple of years, that’s for sure! Comparisons aside, if all of the above doesn’t convince you of her indisputable talent, I don’t know what will…

Oh wait, did I forget to mention that Gorman achieved all of this after overcoming a speech impediment that she has had since she was a child? Going from this, to delivering her work in front of the whole world, demonstrates not only her determination, but also sends the message to anyone that has a speech impediment that anything is possible and that your voice still should - or rather needs - to be heard. In interview with James Corden on the US evening chat show, 'The Late Late Show', Gorman asserted that, “words is where I operate and where I can make magic happen” and magic was certainly present on the podium in America that day.

Following in the footsteps of past inaugural poets, including Richard Blanco, Maya Angelo and Robert Frost, it is inevitable that Amanda Gorman has a bright literary future ahead of her

A poem of hope and reconciliation, Amanda Gorman’s evocative rhetoric makes reference to the years of division that continue to haunt the US; calling for a more united and pragmatic future: “We close the divide because we know to put our future first. We must first put our differences aside […] we’ll forever be tied together, victorious, not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.”

She later makes reference to the storming of the Capitol Building, which took place in early January, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.” All in all, Gorman did exactly what she set out to do, telling the BBC World Service’s Newshour, “I really wanted to use my words to be a point of unity and collaboration and togetherness.” She is undoubtedly the voice of our generation.

Following in the footsteps of past inaugural poets, including Richard Blanco, Maya Angelo and Robert Frost, it is inevitable that Amanda Gorman has a bright literary future ahead of her and I for one am excited to witness her popularity soar. It has already been confirmed that she will be the first poet to perform during a Super Bowl; making poetry more accessible across all corners of society and shining a light on such a powerful and breathtaking form of literary genius. If you haven’t already watched her performance, you’re in for an absolute treat.

Feature Image: Instagram @Amandascgorman and @ATNews

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