Amanda Gorman, the young black poet who performed at President Joe Biden’s inaugural, has become an overnight star with her works shooting to the top of Amazon bestseller lists ahead of their publication. Gorman, 22, recited “The Hill We Climb” at the inaugural, a poem inspired by the US Capitol attack touching on how democracy “can never be permanently defeated”. She is the youngest poet ever to recite at a presidential inauguration, a role first given to Robert Frost by John F Kennedy in 1961.
The Harvard University graduate was invited to participate after First Lady Jill Biden saw one of her readings. A collection of Gorman’s poems to be published in September was number one on the Amazon bestseller list on Friday followed by a children’s book, “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” also to be released in September. A hardcover copy of her inaugural poem to be released next month is number three on the list.
Gorman’s works knocked former president Barack Obama’s autobiography, “A Promised Land”, down to the number five position. America’s first black president was one of the many Americans left impressed by Gorman. “On a day for the history books, @TheAmandaGorman delivered a poem that more than met the moment,” Obama tweeted, before quoting the closing line of Gorman’s inaugural poem. “Young people like her are proof that ‘there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it; if only we’re brave enough to be it,'” Obama said.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai were among those praising the young poet. She gained two million followers on Instagram in a day and a million on Twitter. Her poem was set to music by Rostam Batmanglij. Originally from Los Angeles, raised by a single mother, Gorman had a speech impediment as a child – like the 46th president – and turned to writing.
She won her first poetry prize at 16 years old and went on to study sociology at Harvard. She has previously written about the struggle for racial equality and the #MeToo movement against sexual assault. Gorman was forced to extensively revise her poem at the last minute after supporters of president Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol on Jan 6 in a bid to undo Biden’s election victory.
“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it / Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,” she recited. “And this effort very nearly succeeded / But while democracy can be periodically delayed, / It can never be permanently defeated.” – AFP