Amanda Gorman: Poet, Activist, and Icon
Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II
Most recently Gorman performed in the Super Bowl half-time show, and was the first poet to do so. Before that, she was also the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration when she read “The Hill We Climb” in January.
Her career is full of many ‘irsts. When she was nineteen, she was the youngest person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. And by now, at the age of twenty-two, Gorman’s list of accomplishments has already reached an impressive length and substance, but she is just getting started.
Her publisher announced that due to high demand they will print one million copies of each of her three works: Changed Signs: A Children’s Anthem, The Hill We Climb, and The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country. “Our goal has been to publish and release the ‘The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country’ as soon as possible,” told the executive director of publicity and corporate communications at Penguin Young Readers, Shanta Newlin, to CNN.
At the Super Bowl, Gorman performed “Chorus of the Captains” in a pre-recorded segment that contained videos of essential workers. The Captains, Gorman mentions, are the three essential workers invited to the Super Bowl to do the coin toss. Those three workers were Trimane Davis, a teacher from Los Angeles, Suzie Dorner, a nurse from Tampa, and James Martin, a U.S. Marine Corps verteran from Pittsburgh. Gorman praised the work of all three, at one point saying, “They’ve taken the lead, exceeding all expectations and limitations, uplifting their communities and neighbors, as leaders, healers, and educators”, in her poem.
Gorman has attributed various authors to have influenced her poetry such as Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Tracy Smith, Yusef Komunyakaa, and many others. Gorman told Harper’s Bazaar “I’ve always deeply admired Maya Angelou. As they say, if you can’t see it, it’s hard to become it. Seeing Angelou’s star in the sky made my faraway dreams seem all the less remote.” And that Sister Outsider, Lorde’s collection of essays, was one of her “all-time-favorite books.”
In a 2018 TED talk called “Using your voice is a political choice” Gorman asked her audience two questions: Whose shoulders do you stand on? What do you stand for? She then answered in three sentences, “I am the daughter of Black writers, who descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”
Gorman often reflects on the importance her voice carries, “I am the descendant of a slave, also named Amanda, who would’ve been severely punished for reading and writing. The fact that I can write and create with joy and audacity is a gift that I try to pay forward.”