Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet ever to perform at a presidential inauguration yesterday.
Following in the footsteps of famous names including Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, Gorman read her self-penned poem, The Hill We Climb, during President Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington DC. So, who exactly is she?
Here’s everything we know about the rising star:
She became the country's first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017
Born in Los Angeles in 1998, Gorman was raised by her mother, a teacher named Joan Wicks, and has two siblings including a twin sister called Gabrielle who is an activist.
Gorman suffered from a speech impediment as a child. She told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview, "It's made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be," adding, "When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds [and] be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience."
While studying at Harvard University for a BA in Sociology, Gorman became the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017, where she was chosen from five finalists. She graduated from Harvard in May 2020.
She wrote on Instagram at the time, "As a black girl and descendant of slaves, graduating college, let alone from an Ivy League university, meant I was able to access a knowledge—which is power—that had been kept out of my people’s hands for generations."
She overcame her speech impediment with a little help from the musical Hamilton
After her reading at the presidential inauguration, Gorman told CNN that she had been dealing with her speech impediment until about two or three years ago and turned to a song the hit musical Hamilton to help overcome it.
She said: "It was as recent as college that I was still struggling to say the R sound, and so one thing that I would do to try to train myself to say it is I would listen to the song Aaron Burr, Sir, which is just packed with Rs.
"And I would try to keep up with Leslie Odom Jr as he’s doing this amazing rap, and I’d say ‘If I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter.'"
She was chosen by Dr Jill Biden to read at the inauguration ceremony
It was the-now First Lady Dr Jill Biden who invited Amanda Gorman to read at the President’s inauguration ceremony after she heard her deliver a poem at the Library of Congress and was so impressed by Gorman’s performance.
The young poet has also presented her work at other official occasions before – including a July 4 celebration when she was backed by the Boston Pops Orchestra.
Gorman told the BBC she "screamed and danced her head off" when she found out she had been selected to read at President Biden's swearing-in ceremony, telling the news outlet she felt "excitement, joy, honour and humility" when she was asked to take part, "and also at the same time terror."
And she added that she hoped her poem, which she completed on the day supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, would "speak to the moment" and "do this time justice".
She played a special tribute to Maya Angelou during her reading
Following in the footsteps of poet Maya Angelou who wrote and delivered the poem, On the Pulse of Morning, during the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in January 1993, Gorman revealed she wore a ring in tribute of the late writer during her reading that was given to her by Oprah Winfrey.
After the reading, Winfrey tweeted: "I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering – and so am I."
Gorman replied: "Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in. While reciting my poem, I wore a ring with a caged bird – a gift from @Oprah for the occasion, to symbolize Maya Angelou, a previous inaugural poet. Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before."
She hopes to one day be president herself
Could we one day see Gorman again at an inauguration ceremony? It seems the writer has aspirations to one day reach the White House.
Her poem made reference to it, reading:
"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 it seems Hillary Clinton is already voting for her. The Former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate wrote on Twitter: "Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait."
Her books are now topping the Amazon charts
Gorman, who published her first book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015 has quickly raced to the top of the Amazon charts after her Washington appearance, with her not-yet-published picture book, Change Sing, already a best-seller despite not being available until September this year.
She tweeted, "I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY! Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then.'"
I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY! Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: "For words alone are certain good: Sing, then"— Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) January 20, 2021
The Los Angeles writer also told her fans that they could pre-order her forthcoming poetry collection, also titled The Hill We Climb, which is out in September.
"If you'd like to read more of my words, you can pre-order my first-ever poetry collection, The Hill We Climb, here!"
Here's the full transcript of Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb
"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’ve 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’ve 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, colours, characters, and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes 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.
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 it 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.
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.
With 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 wind-swept north-east 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.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms 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."
Original article appeared on GLAMOUR UK | Author Annabelle Sparanklen