As far as I’m concerned the poet stole the show at yesterday’s inauguration of American President Joe Biden. Standing full of promise in her bright yellow coat and bold red hat twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman’s voice rang true and clear across her country and the world as she recited the rich and rhythmic words she had written especially for the occasion. What passion! What poise! What purpose! I’ve listened to Amanda recite her poem The Hill We Climb about half a dozen times now and so far I just can’t choose which is my favorite line.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another
Even as we grieved we grew, even as we hurt we hoped, even as we tired we tried
Victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made
We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and changes our children’s birthright.
Let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left
For there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.
I have a feeling Amanda’s poem will be read or listened to in many classrooms this morning. By yesterday afternoon my Twitter feed was lighting up with ideas from teachers about how they might share The Hill We Climb with their students.
I was thrilled about that. I taught high school English for six years and inevitably when I would introduce our poetry unit there would be groans in the classroom. Teenagers thought poetry was boring, hard to understand, and certainly not something they could write. I loved to watch them develop personal preferences for certain poems and poets, learn that a poem could mean something different and true to every person who read it, and realize they too could be poets.
Amanda’s poem will certainly become one that is oft-recited and loved and its words will be interpreted in a myriad of ways as people think about how its message applies to them. I wonder if it may have the power to inspire a whole generation to believe they can be poets and also practical people of principle who dream they can change the world and then go out and do it.
A very young and incredibly gifted Black female poet stole the show at yesterday’s American presidential inauguration. What could be more fitting or give the world more faith in the future?