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Amanda Gorman: The Hill We Climb

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2021

The rhetorical highlight of the Biden/Harris inauguration was Amanda Gorman reciting her poem, The Hill We Climb — I thought it was fantastic. It begins:

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one

Here’s a transcript courtesy of CNN. You can read about how Gorman composed the poem in the NY Times:

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”

Gorman managed to write a few lines a day and was about halfway through the poem on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed into the halls of Congress, some bearing weapons and Confederate flags. She stayed awake late into the night and finished the poem, adding verses about the apocalyptic scene that unfolded at the Capitol that day.

The Times also has a lesson for students about Gorman and her poem. And from NPR:

Gorman is no stranger to having to change her work midstream. Like Biden, who has spoken openly about having stuttered as a child, Gorman grew up with a childhood speech impediment of her own. She had difficulty saying certain letters of the alphabet — the letter R was especially tough — which caused her to have to constantly “self-edit and self-police.”

Her delivery was amazing — powerful and lyrical. Brava!

Update: I included a link to a transcript of the poem above. I also wanted to include this illustration by Samantha Dion Baker because art inspires art.

Amanda Gorman

Update: A book version of Gorman’s inaugural poem will be out in April and is available for preorder.