|Born||Amanda S.C. Gorman|
Los Angeles, California, U.S
|Known for||Becoming the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, performing an original poem titled The Hill We Climb at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.|
|Family||Gabrielle (Twin sister)|
|Awards||National Youth Poet Laureate (2017)|
Amanda S. C. Gorman is an American poet and activist from Los Angeles. Her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. Gorman was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. She published the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015. In 2021, she delivered her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration of Joe Biden.
Background and Education
Amanda Gorman was born in Los Angeles in 1998 and was raised by her mother, a teacher named Joan Wicks, with her two siblings. She has a twin sister, Gabrielle, who is an activist and filmmaker. Gorman had a speech impediment as a child - an affliction she shares with America's new president.
"It's made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be," she said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.
"When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds [and] be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience."
Gorman attended New Roads, a private school in Santa Monica, for grades K–12. As a senior, Gorman received a Milken Family Foundation college scholarship. She studied sociology at Harvard College, and graduated cum laude as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Poetry and Activism
Gorman fell in love with poetry after hearing her teacher read Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" to the class. She then turned to writing to cope with her speech impediment. Similar to how President Biden had a stutter growing up, Gorman had difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
Gorman's art and activism focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. Gorman said she was inspired to become a youth delegate for the United Nations in 2013 after watching a speech by Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Gorman was chosen as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 and three years later she became the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She published the poetry book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015.
In 2016, Gorman founded the non-profit organization One Pen One Page, a youth writing and leadership program. In 2017, Gorman became the first author to be featured on XQ Institute's Book of the Month, a monthly giveaway to share inspiring Gen Z’s favorite books. She wrote a tribute for black athletes for Nike and has a book deal with Viking Children's Books to write two children's picture books.
In 2017, Gorman became the first youth poet to open the literary season for the Library of Congress, and she has read her poetry on MTV. Gorman wrote In This Place: An American Lyric for her September 2017 performance at the Library of Congress, which commemorated the inauguration of Tracy K. Smith as Poet Laureate of the United States. The Morgan Library and Museum acquired her poem In This Place (An American Lyric) and displayed it in 2018 near works by Elizabeth Bishop.
While at Harvard, Gorman became the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017. She was chosen from five finalists. In 2017, Gorman won a $10,000 grant from media company OZY as part of the OZY Genius Awards.
In 2017, Gorman said she wanted to run for presidency in 2036, and she has subsequently often repeated this hope. After she read her poem The Hill We Climb at President Joe Biden's Inauguration on 20 January 2021, unsuccessful 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted her support for this 2036 aspiration.
Breaking New Ground
On 20 January 2021, Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, performing an original poem titled “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. She continued a tradition that has included such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. In the roughly five-minute reading of her poem, Gorman called for healing and unity, alluding to the pro-Trump rally two weeks ago that turned into a violent storming of the U.S. Capitol.
In her poem, Gorman described herself as "a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother [who] can dream of becoming president, only to find her self reciting for one".
America's first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate did her job, which was to find the right words at the right time. It was a beautifully paced, well-judged poem for a special occasion, but it will live long beyond the time and space of the moment. Amanda Gorman delivered her piece with grace, the words it contained will resonate with people the world over: today, tomorrow, and far into the future.
Soon after Gorman's performance at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two upcoming books, a poetry collection titled The Hill We Climb and a project for youth titled Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, were at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Both books are scheduled to be released in September 2021.
Comments from notable people after inauguration poem
- Michelle Obama: "With her strong and poignant words, @TheAmandaGorman reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding our democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can't wait to see what you do next. 💕 #BlackGirlMagic"
- Oprah Winfrey: "I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I."
- Hillary Clinton: "Wasn't @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She's promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can't wait."
Her Other Writing Themes
In other writings, Gorman has honored her ancestors, acknowledged and reveled in her own vulnerability (“Glorious in my fragmentation,” she has written) and confronted social issues. Her poem In This Place (An American Lyric), written for the 2017 inaugural reading of U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, condemns the racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia ( “tiki torches string a ring of flame”) and holds up her art form as a force for democracy:
Tyrants fear the poet.
Now that we know it
we can’t blow it.
We owe it
to show it
not slow it
Gorman has rare status as a poet, and has dreams of other ceremonies. She would love to read at the 2028 Olympics, scheduled to be held in Los Angeles, and in 2037 wouldn’t mind finding herself in an even more special position at the presidential inauguration — as the new chief executive.
“I’m going to tell Biden that I’ll be back,” she said with a laugh.
- Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles (2014)
- USA's First Youth Poet Laureate (2017)
- Maressa Brown, , Parents, Published: 20 January, 2021, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
- Hillel Italie, , Time, Published: 15 January, 2021, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
- , The Herald, Published: 21 January, 2021, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
- Will Gompertz, , BBC - Entertainment, Published: 21 January, 2021, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
- , CBS News - This Morning, Published: 21 January, 2021, Accessed: 22 January, 2021