Amanda Gorman’s youngest fans have poet reveling in the opportunity to inspire them
L.A.’s Amanda Gorman, who made history in January as the youngest poet to recite at a presidential inauguration and again in February as the first poet to perform at a Super Bowl, still finds it hard to believe that her work is being published.
Her advance copy of her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” she told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, is tattered and oily.
“It’s just gone through so much,” Gorman said, “because I keep running my hands over it to remind myself that it’s real.”
During the GMA interview, the 23-year-old revealed she’d been booked for the Super Bowl before being chosen by First Lady Jill Biden for the inauguration.
“It was this big secret I was keeping,” Gorman said. “I was writing a Super Bowl poem and an inauguration poem at the same time, and I was like, ‘What is my life?’”
She became the national youth poet laureate at age 16; six years later, she read her poem at Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ historic swearing-in.
For Gorman, having her work featured at one of the world’s major sports events signifies “a really important moment in art.”
The moment, perhaps, is exemplified in the myriad children who’ve dressed up like her for Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March and other similar school events.
“They’re just adorable,” the poet said when asked about these little ones, who typically don a yellow coat and red headband as she did when she took the stage at the Capitol.
“It brings so much joy to my [social media] feed,” she added. Gorman wants these dress-up games to serve as a catalyst for more.
“Hopefully, I can be the entry point and not the exit to poetry in these young students’ lives” and the “beginning of their exploration of literature,” she said.
“The Hill We Climb,” a palm-size hardcover featuring a forward by Oprah Winfrey, will be published in English by Viking books on Tuesday. A Spanish-language edition will be released in the U.S. by Lumen in May. “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” in which young people are depicted as agents of change, will be released come fall.
During the sit-down, Winfrey recalled that she gave Angelou a Chanel coat and a pair of gloves when she recited “On the Pulse of Morning” for former President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
Gorman said she listened to Angelou recite that poem nearly every day during her last year at Harvard.
“I was in a deep place where I was trying to analyze the power of poetry to speak for a people ... and to do so with hope,” she told Winfrey.
“Having Maya’s poem as an example — not only of written word but also incredible spoken word that she brought to it— I wanted to continue to participate in that tradition of hope-making in every single poem that I wrote,” said Gorman. “And so, that’s how I grounded myself every morning.”
The Black poet’s translators in Holland and Spain left the project over “own voices” backlash, sparking a rare debate over who gets to translate whom.
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