First Lady Jill Biden had poet and activist Amanda Gorman perform at her husband’s inauguration.
The unexpected star of US President Joe Biden’s inauguration was a 22-year-old poet. Amanda Gorman, poet, and activist, gave a speech of just under six minutes. She linked the United States’ unwelcome history to the mesmerizing message of unity that was also central to the newly appointed president’s speech.
But it was not only the content that made an impression: it was also her performance, her diction, with a sense of rhythm, musicality, and clever, meaningful rhyme. And not least the fact that as a young black woman, in a bright yellow Prada coat, she had the most honorable stage and made the American dream come true.
Gorman spoke of himself in the poem as one of 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 the presidency.
The First Lady, Jill Biden, made Amanda Gorman’s choice as the youngest inaugural poet to date (Kennedy set the tradition, only continued by Clinton, twice, and Obama, also twice). Gorman was already well-known in high circles for her lectures at official occasions, such as at the White House under Obama. She became the chosen youth poet, the youth poet laureate, for her hometown of Los Angeles at the age of 16, and held that honorary position for the entire United States in 2017, as the first bearer of the title. According to the stages, she could climb, her poetry was shaped: what she wrote had always been inspired by “what I want for myself and my country.”
Amanda Gorman grew up in Los Angeles as a solitary misfit, a “weird kid” with a speech impediment, he says. That didn’t make her popular in class, but it did get her into writing as a way of expressing herself. A teacher recognized her poetic talent, Gorman took part in poetry competitions and won, received grants, and published her first collection of poetry at seventeen, independently. Poetry for which she “draws from deep sources, from ancestors, the community, suffering souls,” as fellow poet Luis J. Rodriguez characterized it.
Shortly after the right-wing nationalist riots in Charlottesville in 2017, Gorman wrote: “ Tyrants fear the poet./ Now that we know it/we can’t blow it./ We owe it / to show it / not slow it. The rhetoric aims to stir up and is musical at the same time. This characterizes spoken word, the form of poetry that cannot be performed without recitation because the sentences propelled by rhyme and rhythm must sound — like rap without music.
This technique also influenced Gorman’s inaugural poem ‘ The Hills We Climb. ‘ She talked about how ‘we’ have learned that the norms and notions ‘ of what is/isn’t always justice. ‘ The rhyme emphasizes the difference in meaning with which she sets the contrasts, just as when she says that being American is more than ‘a pride we inherit’ (‘ a pride we inherit ‘) and rhymes with the call to the past and to ‘repair’ it. She links concepts together by rhyming rhyme: the opening rhyme in ‘ inaction ‘ and ‘ inertia, ‘which becomes the ‘ inheritance of the next generation, ‘the semi-rhyme in ‘ blunders which become burdens (obligations).
She makes clear references to the history of racism and its impact in the present — concerning the recent storming of the Capitol: “ We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation / rather than share it. Gorman follows it with a plea for reconciliation. That may be an unambiguous message, but Gorman gives depth to her rhetoric with countless (historical) references. The land that is “ unfinished ” refers directly to President Lincoln’s 19th-century war speech in Gettysburg. Gorman conjures up the citizen’s image wanting to sit quietly under his “ vine and fig tree, ” a biblical image, but also a reference used by President George Washington. In the large ring that Gorman wore, a tribute was recognized with a caged bird’s image after Maya Angelou‘s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Gorman’s story culminated in a call to hope and strength. And above all, very visible in the connection-hinting we-form, to unity, Biden’s speech’s keyword. Gorman thus performed poetry residential allure. Incidentally, Gorman already stated in 2017 that she had set her sights on the presidency in 2036. Hillary Clinton said in a tweet after the inauguration that she “cannot wait”..”