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22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman to read at Biden’s inauguration

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NEW YORK (AP) – At 22, poet Amanda Gorman, chosen to read at President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration ceremony, already has experience writing for official events.

“Like I have stumbled upon this genre. It has been something that has given me a lot of emotional gratification, writing something that I can make people feel moved by, even for one night, ”says Gorman. The Los Angeles resident has written for events including a celebration of the 4th of July, American Independence Day, with the Boston Pops Orchestra, to the inauguration at Harvard University, her alma mater, by Chancellor Larry Bacow.

When he recites next Wednesday, he will continue a tradition – for Democratic presidents – that includes celebrated poets like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. The latter’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” written for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, sold more than a million copies when it was published in book format. Recent readers have included Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, with whom Gorman has been in contact.

“The three of us are together in mind, body and spirit,” he says.

Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in memory, and made headlines before. In 2014, she was named the first Los Angeles Young Poet Laureate, and three years later the first National Young Poet Laureate. He has appeared on MTV, has written a tribute to black athletes for Nike, and has a deal with Viking Children’s Books to publish two books. The first, the illustrated text “Change Sings”, will be out in the coming months.

Gorman says Biden’s investiture committee contacted her last month. He has met numerous public figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama, but says he has yet to meet the Bidens. The Bidens apparently were aware of her: Gorman says committee staff told her that future first lady Jill Biden had recommended her.

His opening poem is titled “The Hill We Climb,” but he declined to advance a few lines. She says they did not give her specific instructions on what to write, but exhorted her to emphasize togetherness and hope and not “denigrate anyone” or declare “the witch is dead” at the departure of President Donald Trump.

Last week’s attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election results represented a challenge to maintain a positive tone, but also an inspiration. Gorman says he was given five minutes to read and that, prior to what he has described in interviews as “the Confederate insurrection” on January 6, he had the equivalent of three and a half minutes.

The final version reaches about six.

“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” says Gorman, adding that he will not refer directly to that day but that he will “touch” it. She says the events of the past week didn’t drastically change the poem she had been working on because they didn’t surprise her.

“The poem is not blind,” he says. “He does not turn his back on the evidence of discord and division.”

In other writings, Gorman has honored his ancestors, acknowledged and celebrated his own vulnerability (“Glorious in my fragmentation,” he has written), and addressed social issues. His poem “In This Place (An American Lyric),” written for the inaugural reading by American poet laureate Tracy K. Smith in 2017, condemns the racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia and upholds his art form as a force for democracy. .

Gorman has a rare status as a poet, and dreams of other ceremonies. She would love to read about the 2028 Olympics, which will be in Los Angeles, and in 2037 she wouldn’t mind finding herself in an even more special position at the presidential inauguration, as the new president.

“I’ll tell Biden I’ll be back,” he laughs.

Ben Oakley
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