It appears that our country can’t get enough of Amanda Gorman.
The brilliant young poet burst on the national scene with a reading at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration on January 20, and followed that up with another stunning performance at the Super Bowl in Tampa on February 7.
Her inauguration poem, “The Hill We Climb,” has been quoted innumerable times on every platform imaginable. In a few short hours we will no doubt see her reading, “Chorus of the Captains,” from Super Bowl Sunday, receive the same amount, if not more attention.
Despite her limited experience, her work is already being likened to that of outstanding American poets such as Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Gwendolyn Brooks, and other African-American poets and social activists. That’s some pretty heady company for one so young.
To further underscore her popularity, I “Googled” her name and immediately received 859,000 results in less than ten seconds. Granted, that is anything but a scientific survey, but I find it to be the quickest metric we have by which to measure one’s impact on modern society. By way of comparison, my name, for example, yielded a paltry 114,000 results, and I’ve been around far longer.
But this is not about me. It’s about Amanda.
The 22-year-old recent Harvard graduate with a degree in sociology, has overcome tremendous personal and physical odds, and accomplished much in an amazingly short time. She learned from observing the circumstances that surrounded her, instead of succumbing to them. She has labored in the shadows for several years, yet has managed to author two books and has two more in the works. It’s important to note that the inauguration was not her first performance in front of dignitaries and luminaries. It was, however, the grandest appearance of her lifetime so far, the one which made her an “overnight sensation.”
What is it about her, or to be more specific, about her poem, that generated such a surge of admiration from viewers so instantly and dramatically?
In a society that is desperately seeking signs of hopefulness and inspiration, “The Hill We Climb,” was the perfect accent to the President’s message of healing and unity.
In the grips of a pandemic that has upended our lives, “Chorus of the Captains” portrayed the courage and indomitability of the human spirit embodied by Marine veteran James Martin, teacher Trimaine Davis, and nurse Suzie Dorner, the trio honored in her Super Bowl opus.
In these troubled times, when fear, distrust, polarization, and rudeness threaten to totally unravel the fabric of our society, Ms. Gorman’s poetry is the salve that soothes.
A couple of lines from her inauguration poem give a poetically stunning description of these United States:
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
“A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.”
Like so many others, I’m captivated by her facility with the written language, the ease with which the ideas seem to flow, her ability to paint portraits with phrases. My jaded maturity has been smitten by her youthful exuberance.
I thank God for Amanda Gorman, and I pray that her words continue to inspire a people that are longing for hope, a nation that anticipates and end to division and despair, and a society that looks forward to a time when we can, as she put it, “seek harm to none and harmony for all.”