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Inauguration Poet to 'Touch' on Capitol Attack

Amanda Gorman was chosen to read by the Bidens
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 15, 2021 4:05 PM CST

(Newser) – At age 22, poet Amanda Gorman, chosen to read at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, already has a history of writing for official occasions. "I have kind of stumbled upon this genre. It's been something I find a lot of emotional reward in, writing something I can make people feel touched by, even if it's just for a night," Gorman said. The Los Angeles resident has written for events such as a July 4 celebration featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra and the inauguration of a new president at Harvard University, her alma mater. When she reads Wednesday, the AP reports, she will be continuing a tradition—for Democratic presidents—that includes such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. The latter's "On the Pulse of Morning," written for the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, went on to sell more than 1 million copies when published in book form.

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Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in memory. She hasn't met the Bidens, but they've apparently have been aware of her; Gorman said inaugural officials told her she had been recommended by Jill Biden. She is calling her inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb," while otherwise declining to preview any lines. Gorman said she was not given specific instructions on what to write but was encouraged to emphasize unity and hope over "denigrating anyone" or declaring "ding, dong, the witch is dead" over the departure of President Trump. The siege last week of the US Capitol was a challenge for keeping a positive tone, but also an inspiration. "That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem," said Gorman, adding that she will not refer directly to the attack but will "touch" upon it. She said last week's events did not upend the poem she had been working on because they didn't surprise her. "The poem isn't blind," she said. "It isn't turning your back to the evidence of discord and division."

(Read more inauguration stories.)

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