If the essence of poetry is emotion, the heartbeat of Amanda Gorman’s verses is a sense of undimmable optimism. This spring, as despair wrought by the pandemic weighed heavily on us all, the Los Angeleno—named America’s inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017—focused on the good (see: the grandma on a porch, receiving groceries from a young neighbour) to create “The Miracle of Morning.”
“We’ll observe how the burdens braved by humankind / Are also the moments that make us humans kind,” Gorman wrote. If you listen to her new work—she performed it for CBS This Morning, and also recited it for S/magazine’s IGTV—you can’t help but feel uplifted. When asked what she aspires to accomplish with her voice, Gorman is to the point: “I hope my writing can remind us of our best selves, even in testing times.”
Gorman has already achieved a great deal at age 22, publishing a poetry book (The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough), garnering glowing profiles (the New York Times, Vogue, Rolling Stone) and graduating from Harvard University with a sociology major. “I learned about the power of language to start social movements, energize revolutions, and bring about widespread change,” Gorman says.
Necessary changes currently top of mind for Gorman include reforming systemic racism, and her activism is fuelled by a profoundly personal sense of history. “As the descendant of slaves, and a writer deeply engaged in what that past means, it would be impossible to see the present as anything short of a gift,” explains Gorman, noting that she’s using a tool—literacy—kept from her ancestors.
Poetry is her superpower, and she invites each of us to contemplate our own as we push for change. “Think about what you can do, you specifically, that others cannot,” Gorman says. “I don’t have millions of dollars to donate to the causes I cherish, or millions of followers to direct. But I can write a poem. How are the markings of what makes you who you are in fact your weapons of revolution?”
Feature image photography by Stephanie Mitchell.