WASHINGTON - NEW YORK (AP) — In one of the inaugurations’s most talked about moments, poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant Wednesday as she called out to the world "even as we grieved, we grew."
The 22-year-old Gorman referenced everything from Biblical scripture and "Hamilton," and at times echoed the oratory of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. With urgency and assertion he began by asking "Where can we find light/In this never-ending shade?" and used her own poetry and life story as an answer. The poem’s very title, "The Hill We Climb," suggested both labor and transcendence.
"We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
Of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we’ve found the power
To author a new chapter,
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves."
It was an extraordinary task for Gorman, the youngest by far of the poets who have read at presidential inaugurations since Kennedy invited Robert Frost in 1961, with other predecessors including Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander. Mindful of the past, she wore earrings and a caged bird ring — a tribute to Angelou’s classic memoir "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" — given to her by Orpah Winfrey, a close friend of the late writer.
Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in memory, and she has made news before. In 2014, she was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, and three years later she became the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She has appeared on MTV; written a tribute to Black athletes for Nike; and has a two-book deal with Viking Children’s Books. The first work, the picture book "Change Sings," comes out later this year.