Anna Blackburn revels in the work of poet Amanda Gorman and her poem “The Hill We Climb”.
“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 promise to 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.”
An excerpt from “The Hill We Climb"
Poetry is a form of art and literature which seeks to both inform and inspire. When spoken aloud, poetic lines of magnanimous melody or melancholy appear to flow seamlessly from the mind of the Poet.
Previously, only three other US Presidents have had poets recite at their inauguration ceremonies. The first being Robert Frost, who read at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961; Maya Angelou and Miller Williams at Bill Clinton’s inaugurations in 1993 and 1977; and Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco for Barack Obama in 2009 and 2013.
On 20th January 2021, Joseph R. Biden became the 46th President of the United States and his speech of reuniting Americans was hopeful, but it was the performance of Amanda Gorman’s original poem “The Hill We Climb” which captured the hearts and minds of all those who heard it. She may have been preceded in History by world-renowned poets, all of whom were at least twice her age, but that did not diminish the passionate and ambitious look in Gorman’s eyes, as she recited how “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother” (“The Hill We Climb”).
To call it a performance may be an understatement. Gorman simply spoke truth and infused dignity into the pride of the American people. She reminded us that no matter what we face or what new terrors the world has in store, we as people, not just Americans, have the power to better ourselves and teach future generations how to endure pain and emerge triumphant “if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright” (“The Hill We Climb”).
Her reading at Biden’s Inauguration was not the first time Gorman has been recognized for her poetry. In 2017, she was the first person under the age of 18 to be recognized as a National Poet Laureate, honouring her with the title of National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. Amanda Gorman’s work continues to be acknowledged, gaining more attention after her performance of yet another stunning poem, “Chorus of the Captains”, at the pre-show for Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida on 7 February. A special edition of The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey, will be released on 30th March 2021, followed by the publication of her collection The Hill We Climb and Other Poems in September.