Bestselling author. Electrifying performer. The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Amanda Gorman has revitalized poetry as a unifying form of expression and catalyst for social justice.
AMANDA GORMAN arrived on America’s national stage—and arguably stole the show—on January 20, 2021, when she performed her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. Then just twenty-two years old, Amanda became the youngest inaugural poet in the history of the U.S. and joined a line of literary heavyweights, including American poets Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Raised in Los Angeles, California, by a single mother who worked as a middle school English teacher, Amanda started writing at the age of five but didn’t see herself reflected in the books she was reading.
“It didn’t seem like I belonged as a poet or in literature,” she says. “You’re talking about a Black girl with a disability, specifically a speech impediment, wanting to be a spoken-word poet.” With assiduous study and self-discipline, Amanda would ultimately turn that impediment into a strength.
At fourteen, she joined the L.A.– based nonprofit organization WriteGirl, whose mission is to empower teen girls through creative writing. While learning to conduct close readings of poetry and workshopping her own early poems with mentors, Amanda gained the confidence to translate her voice to the page and project it publicly.
Spoken-word stages quickly became Amanda’s second home. At age sixteen, she was named the first-ever Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate. Then she enrolled at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts—one of the most venerable educational institutions in America—where she majored in sociology while studying literature.
“Reading is to writers and poets what exercise and training are to athletes.”
At nineteen, Amanda was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. She captured even more attention with a rousing performance of her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric)” at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Then she landed her biggest gig yet: the 2021 inauguration, which she followed up with the publication of her first poetry collection, Call Us What We Carry, as well as a book for younger readers entitled Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem.
As a poet, you’re many things: storyteller, creator, educator, speechmaker, preacher, activist. You have the power to inspire entire movements with your words.
- Toni Morrison
- Maya Angelou
- Lucille Clifton
- Audre Lodre
- Nikki Giovanni
- Gwendolyn Brooks
- Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology Of Contemporary African American Poetry by Charles Henry Rowell
- African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (LOA #333): A Library of America Anthology by Kevin Young
- When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry by Leanne Howe (Author), Joy Harjo (Editor)
- We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics by Andrea Abi-Karam (Editor), Kay Gabriel (Editor)
- A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.
- Poets and Writers
- The Poetry Society of America
- The National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities
- The American Literature Association
- The Poetry Foundation
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