Reviewed by Adeze Ojukwu
It was quite nostalgic and emotional for this writer to watch the beautiful rendition of a poem by Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, few hours ago.
A cursory literary appreciation of this epic literature, shows a unique blend of theme and style, craftily knitted with an astonishing composition, diction, metaphor, pun and rhythm.
The dramatic display exhibited by the 22-year old laureate was simply breathtaking.
Indeed Gorman made history, Wednesday as the youngest poet in recent history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration.
The young African American artist read her own poem at the grand ceremony.
The Los Angeles native told NPR she finished writing the poem, titled ‘The Hill We Climb,: on the night of January 6, hours after rioters took part in a siege on Capitol Hill.
‘I was like, ‘Well, this is something we need to talk about,'” Gorman told NPR’s Steve Inskeep ahead of the inauguration, adding it had been ‘really daunting to begin the poem’ given how divided the country seemed after the 2020 election.
The young lady opened her poem in these stoic words: ‘We 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 justice. And yet the dawn is hours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished,’ she said.
‘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.”
‘And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect,” she said. ‘We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.’
‘And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first. We must first put our differences aside,’ Gorman said.
Gorman, who said she was not given specific instructions on what to write in her poem, follows in the footsteps of esteemed poets like Maya Angelou and Robert Frost in reading a poem at a presidential inauguration.
It is quite interesting that she also delivered her poem at a historic inauguration that saw Harris, sworn in as the country’s first woman vice president and first woman of color to serve in that position.
Read Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem in full:
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world, 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 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 justice. And yet the dawn is hours 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.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first. We must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true, that even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried. That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious, not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lighten the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made, that is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare, it’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we stepped into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption. We feared — at its deception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, “how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?”, now we assert, “how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?” We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation.
Because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain. If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birth right.
So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with, every breath from my bronze pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise through the gold-limbed hills in the west, we will rise from the windswept northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover, in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it