The popular media keeps reporting that “poetry is having a moment.” That’s odd to hear if you have been a fan of poetry or a poet yourself. But now with a year of the COVID-19 pandemic and a crazy U.S. election year, protests about racial issues, it seems that more people are reading and writing poetry as a response.
Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, also gave poetry media attention and offered inspiration to new young people who had not written or read poetry before. Then, she appeared at the Super Bowl – an unusual place for a poetry reading, and an audience not known for attending poetry readings.
Her inaugural poem, titled “The Hill We Climb,” received a lot of praise. Her sudden rise to fame has also had its critics who point to her enormous presales for three upcoming books and her getting a modeling contract with IMG as not what we expect poets to do. There is also lots of marketing around Amanda.
It reminds me of when Billy Collins became a best-selling poet which is not usually the case for poetry books and poets. But Collins became our Poet Laureate and continues to be very popular and much more respected. We seem to want our poets to be humble, be teachers, and stay somewhat poor.
Amanda Gorman is not new to poetry. She was writing as a child and was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014. She published her first poetry collection, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015. While studying sociology at Harvard University, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States.
Her chance to read at the inauguration came late. Dr. Jill Biden watched a reading Gorman gave at the Library of Congress just a few days before the event and asked if Gorman might read something for the inauguration. Amanda got the details on a Zoom call flew to Washington, D.C.
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