22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman wasn’t as well known as inauguration performers like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, but she came away from the day with some of the highest praises. The 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate recited an original poem, titled “The Hill We Climb,” at Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration. She was challenged to deliver a message of hope and unity at a time when the US saw its political divisions laid raw in a riot at the capitol building.
In an interview with The New York Times, she said it was that very event that helped her finish her poem.
“In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years,” she said. “But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal. It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”
Her poem makes direct reference to the riots, as Genius contributor Kevin Loo notes in an annotation:
She finishes by calling for a new age marked by healing and understanding:The new dawn blooms as we free itFor there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see itIf only we’re brave enough to be it
“We have to confront these realities if we’re going to move forward, so that’s also an important touchstone of the poem,” Gorman told the Times. “There is space for grief and horror and hope and unity, and I also hope that there is a breath for joy in the poem, because I do think we have a lot to celebrate at this inauguration.”
She is set to publish a poetry collection, also titled The Hills We Climb, this September via Viking Books for Young Readers.