It was seconds after concluding his presentation in the Library of Congress of the United States that the audience, gaping, stood up to dedicate a standing ovation to Amanda Gorman, winner of the 2017 National Young Poetry Prize.
Among the attendees, there was a language teacher named Jill Biden.
A few years later, when Biden was preparing for her husband’s presidential inauguration ceremony, she knew immediately who wanted to close the act.
This January 20, the first day of the presidency of Joe Biden, a new page in the history of the United States, the entire country was left speechless and applauded his election.
Chronicle of a commission
Gorman, a social justice activist since the age of 16, now Harvard student, was commissioned to compose a poem for the occasion in December.
To prepare, read the previous inaugural poems, went back to the texts of Abraham Lincoln to understand how to speak to a divided country. He was in the middle of his job when the Capitol robbery occurred.
Poet Amanda Gorman prepares to read her poem on Joe Biden’s inauguration of the presidency. Photo: AFP
“I will not say that it ruined the poem because it did not surprise me, I had seen the signs and symptoms a long time ago. But it motivated me even more to firmly believe in a message of hope, unity and healing. It was the kind of poem that I needed to write and the kind that the country and the world needed to hear, ”Gorman explained.
His verses were the perfect echo of Biden’s speech, a powerful lyrical version of the message of unity that the new president sent to the country without closing his eyes.
“In some way, we have resisted and witnessed a nation that is not broken, but unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time when a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of being president and one day find that she’s reciting for you, ”Gorman proclaimed (yes, he has long said he plans to run for president in 2036, when he’s the legal minimum age).
The Capitol Auditorium was speechless during the five minutes that the recitation of his poem lasted, The hill we climb (The hill we climbed).
Some couldn’t contain their exclamations of admiration when, punctuating each word with his hands and a broad smile, Gorman recalled how Americans have seen forces that can destroy the country and they were close to achieving it.
Amanda Gorman receives a standing ovation from the public, including Joe Biden, after reciting her poem at the presidential inauguration in the United States.
But while democracy can sometimes be delayed, Gorman proclaimed, “it can never be defeated.” “Democracy has prevailed,” Biden had said minutes before.
Like the day the first lady met her Gorman dressed in yellow. Her hair, as political as her poetry, was gathered in dreadlocks in a powerful bun.
Listening to her recite with such talent and confidence it was difficult to guess that the poet and the president had something in common beyond their verses and prose. Both have had to overcome big obstacles to be able to speak in public.
Biden was a stutterer as a child and overcame his condition reciting Irish poets in front of the mirror. Gorman also found in poetry a platform to overcome his limitations.
The poet, who has a twin sister and they were born prematurely, drags trouble pronouncing certain letters, such as erre or sh sound.
Until a few years ago, she still had trouble saying her own last name or the name of the school where she studied in Los Angeles, where, as she told the country, she has been raised by a single mother, a school teacher.
“Poetry found me,” he told the public channel PBS when he received his first major award. He crush happened when I was 7 or 8 years old. He wrote verses in the schoolyard. Then he began to recite.
Gorman’s poetry is a cry for social justice. At 16, he created an NGO to help other children read and write better. Literacy and democracy go hand in hand, defends.
Shocked by Donald Trump’s victory, in 2016 she wrote We the people (We the People, The First Words of the U.S. Constitution), a reflection on who counts and who doesn’t in American democracy.
The poem she recited when she was awarded the national award and heard by Jill Biden is titled In this place (an American lyric) (In this place, an American letter) and deals with what some places in the United States tell us, scenarios to celebrate and others to reflect on and look at in the face, such as Charlottesville where a bloody demonstration of white supremacists took place that summer .
Trump’s response to those events led to Joe Biden running for office. And Jill led him to Gorman.
The author is a Washington correspondent for La Vanguardia