22 January 2021
"When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?"
On Wednesday, poet Amanda Gorman read her poem, "The Hill We Climb," at the swearing-in ceremony of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
By Thursday, the 22-year-old was a superstar.
Gorman is the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the change of presidential power. Past inaugural poets include famous writers like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Gorman is a native of Los Angeles, California, and in 2017 was named the country's first Youth Poet Laureate. She recently completed her studies at Harvard University.
On Wednesday, Gorman offered a hopeful future for a deeply divided country.
"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."
Her reading -- and the ceremony as a whole -- took place exactly two weeks after a violent mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump attacked and occupied the U.S. Capitol Building.
Gorman says she had completed a little more than half of "The Hill We Climb" before the January 6 attack at the Capitol.
"That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem," Gorman told The Associated Press. She chose not to make direct note of the attack, but her references to the event were clear:
"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."
Hours after the inauguration, her two books -- which are to be released later this year -- became number 1 and 2 on Amazon.com's sales list.
Gorman's poetry collection "The Hill We Climb" and her children's book "Change Sings" are set to be published in September.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson adapted this story based on reports by Reuters news agency and The Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
poet - n. a person who writes poems
poem - n. a piece of writing that usually has figurative language and that is written in separate lines that often have a repeated rhythm and sometimes rhyme
inaugural - adj. happening as part of an official ceremony or celebration when someone (such as a newly elected official) begins an important job : happening as part of an inauguration
poet laureate - n. a poet who is honored by being chosen for an official position by a ruler or government
reference - n. the act of mentioning something in speech or in writing
periodically - adv. happening regularly over a period of time