Writing for good: Amanda Gorman

Wow. Thank you Amanda Gorman for energizing us with your words and your poise in one single instance to do good, to be brave, and to be hopeful with your poem ‘The Hill We Climb’. The inauguration ceremony of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice-President itself was unexpectedly eventful and charming, with Gorman’s reading being one of the highlights. Although it was an American poem, the words she wrote resonated with many across the world. So, I had to research Gorman’s story and share what I discovered. Her story is one dedication, perseverance, and community.

One of several national poet laureates, 22 year-old Gorman is not an overnight success. Along with her portfolio of work and her activism in the arena of social justice, she benefited from great writing initiatives. Firstly, she attended writing workshops at the Girl Write Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that empowers girls through writing. Through this program, she received recognization in 2014, as Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate. In 2015, she published her first book of poetry “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough”; two I read are heartfelt and cleverly use wordplay.

It is remarkable that because of her speech impediment, she turned to writing at a young age, which then gave her a vehicle to learn to speak, practicing reciting Poetry. 

Through her passion for social justice and the quality of her work, she was selected to be the first National Youth Poet Laurent in 2017, part of through The National Youth Poet Laureate initiative, created by Urban Word already in 2008.  Invited to the Library of Congress to do a recitation, she got the attention of Jill Biden, and the rest is history. Three years later, Gorman has been thrust onto the world stage. From her interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, she researched in depth to write “The HIll We Climb”, including hopeful presidential speeches. In light of the sombre atmosphere and turmoil in the US in 2020, she felt it was important to write a poem of hope, unity and togetherness.

Here is the full text of the poem “The Hill We Clim”.

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 just-ice
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 a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, 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 promised 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
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 gold-limbed 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 sunbaked 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,
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

Buy her books at RANDOM HOUSE.

Visit her website The Amanda Gorman.

 

References:

https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/amanda-gorman-poet-inauguration-joe-biden-1234888023/

https://www.writegirl.org/

 

 

Sharifa Jamaldin