The Hill We Climb | Amanda Gorman

Photo: Kelia Anne for Rolling Stone

22-year-old Amanda Gorman stole the show yesterday when she recited her own poem The Hill We Climb at the presidential inauguration in Washington. She is the youngest poet to perform on such an occasion and… she was a success! Gorman recited with strength and emotion, captivating the audience with her reconciling message. Shortly after, she was widely praised in the press. Additionally, parts of her speech were liberally shared all over social media.

According to The New York Times, Gorman had been struggling with the poem, then finished it on the night of the Capitol riot: The theme for the inauguration in its entirety is ‘America United,’ so when I heard that was their vision, that made it very easy for me to say, great, that’s also what I wanted to write about in my poem, about America united, about a new chapter in our country.

Who is Amanda Gorman?

  • On Instagram, Gorman describes herself as a poet, writer and dreamer.
  • She says she plans to run for president in 2036.
  • As a child she battled a speech impediment (like Angelou).
  • She studies sociology at Harvard.
  • After watching a speech my Malala Yousafzai she was inspired to become a youth delegate of the UN.
  • She is the first US National Youth Poet Laureate.
  • She has read her poetry on MTV.
  • Her art and activism focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, marginalisation, as well as the African diaspora

(Source: Sky News)

The presence of Maya Angelou

The Hill We Climb blends the past and the future of the United States into a call for unity. At the ceremony, Gorman wore earrings and a golden ring shaped like a caged bird; a gift from Opray Winfrey. Although the ring symbolises Maya Angelou’s famous I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, there is also another connection. Angelou was the inaugural poet (1993) at the Clinton/Gore ceremony. Furthermore, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama (2010). And if you listen closely to Gorman delivering her poem, you can almost hear Angelou whispering Still I Rise

In my poem, 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.

Amanda Gorman (to The New York Times)

Upcoming publications

Viking Books has scheduled the release of Gorman’s debut poetry collection, titled The Hill We Climb and including the already famous poem for September, 2021. A special edition of the inaugural poem is expected this spring. In addition, Gorman has created a picture book, Change Sings, with the illustrator Loren Long, which will be released at the same time as the poetry collection.

Read the poem here

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 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 justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we 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 our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, 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, become the future.
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.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, 
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden 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 sun-baked 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 of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons 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.

Watch Amanda Gorman recite The Hill We Climb here

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