I was holding my brand new granddaughter in my arms as I watched the inauguration of Joe Biden, live from Washington D.C.. And I rocked her gently from side to side as Lady Gaga sang "The Star Spangled Banner" with her raised fist clenched in a black leather glove.
Sometimes, people might see poetry as mere decoration - as unnecessary and indulgent as a cream cake. But you cannot say that about the poetry of World War One nor about words carved upon gravestones. Sometimes poetry is vital and so it was when Amanda Gorman recited "The Hill We Climb" for the very first time.
It was a poem for our times and a declaration of hope for the future. The words were like beach pebbles - each one carefully chosen for its shape, its colour and for the weight of it. Amanda Gorman had arranged them painstakingly as if constructing a mosaic. Her poem was very apt, very apt indeed and even though it is as fresh as a newly born child, it has already entered America's great literary heritage - to be recited through the decades ahead of us...
THE HILL WE CLIMB
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’ve 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 ours 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 lie in 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 step 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.
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 it at its inception.
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 birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the 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 from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east 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.
A poem full of hope and expectation but a long road to travel. Gosh Amanda Gorman can write, her legacy will be like a Keats or Wordsworth, thank you for printing it though I did hear her deliver it.ReplyDelete
Her poem is also very modern, very current - containing echoes of rap and American streetlife. She has a life of words and poetry ahead of her.Delete
It was a terrific interlude and very political, but I don't mind the politics within. It came from the heart.ReplyDelete
So much thought had gone into the crafting of that poem.Delete
I didn't hear it all, just sound bites. I can't turn on the television during school hours. But I heard the last two lines over and over again. They were like that old 'one-two punch'. That "skinny black girl descended from slaves" has writ a place for herself in history. She is not done writing her place there.ReplyDelete
I was disappointed that "Amazing Grace" was sung by Garth Brooks and not a black singer - but I need not have worried about the unity message because Amanda Gorman wowed it.Delete
What a tremendous gift from one so young in years. I heard the inspirational delivery, but this is the first time I've seen the written form; thank you.ReplyDelete
I thought it was very much worth recording in full Elizabeth.Delete
I missed her live recital but heard many positive and impressed comments from the journalsists reporting from Washington.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing it here.
You are most welcome ma'am.Delete
Possibly not obvious from the footage but Gaga was not raising a clenched fist but gesturing (dramatically of course) at the Capitol flag, that "still waved".ReplyDelete
I loved how musical it sounded, too. She had such an awareness of the sound and rhythms of the language. It was so great to see so many people from so many different backgrounds sharing that stage. It felt like a true portrait of the country.ReplyDelete
A portrait from which the previous incumbent was thankfully erased. I cannot imagine that he really left a "generous" message for #46. That does not seem truly credible.Delete
I am not ashamed and embarrassed to be an American today. Ms. Gorman is a huge part of that.ReplyDelete
After four years you and others like you can claim back your country.Delete
Something that never happened before:ReplyDelete
Holding little Phoebe in your arms.
Before you know it Phoebe will be saying *Gramps!*
She is so precious with her tiny fingernails and her baby skin so smooth. Like Amanda Gorman, she is already looking to the future.Delete
Remember the conversation Noam Chomsky had with his peers?Delete
How do babies learn to speak?
They don't learn, said Chomsky. They already know.
On our part we need to talk to babies all the time.
A teacher and mother told me that we are not talking enough to babies.
She said, *When I make my child rice and apple sauce, I turn it into a story with words. You get the child's attention. It's in their eyes.*
I agree it is important to talk to them and to sing and to read stories.Delete
It was a wonderful day! Glad your precious baby got to see it.ReplyDelete
I hope she gets to travel to America. It is a wonderful country.Delete
I love the fact that you were holding little Phoebe while watching the Inauguration, and I love Amanda Gorman's poem.ReplyDelete
It was a very good day for America.
Like Mary Moon you can now reclaim your country.Delete
It was a powerful and articulate performance of her own poem. What an honour! The world should have more poets. I loved learning to recite poetry when I was at school.ReplyDelete
Nowadays there's not much learning of poems in schools. I think it is a good thing to do. To have a few good poems that you can speak without paper. It feels great to have those words coming out of your mouth.Delete
Entirely appropriate that one poet should hold his newborn granddaughter to listen to another poet with the wisdom of the ages.ReplyDelete
Finally could go to sleep last night without worrying about some insane or repugnant behavior from the WH. Decency and empathy has returned to the Office of the President.
I am afraid for both Mr Biden and Mrs Harris. The previous president unleashed such hatred and gave it muscles and a voice. He called it "the movement".Delete
I know, but there is another word for "a movement": excrement. A most appropriate one word definition of the orange one.Delete
Let him play golf till eternity.Delete
Jennifer Lopez did it for me. Amazing songstress and not three bad looking.ReplyDelete
You re not meant to be in lust mode when moments in history unfurl.Delete
That poem was wonderful, stupendous and gracefully crafted. I think it was the highlight of the whole ceremony, What a smart, beautiful, brave young woman!!!ReplyDelete
Maybe she does not want the job but what a great role model she will be for black girls in America.Delete
I missed this poem as I was listening to the inauguration on the radio. Wow! This is some poem when you sit down and read it.ReplyDelete
Every word counts.Delete
You gave a beautiful description of her poem comparing her words to pebbles on the beach, each perfectly chosen. I enjoyed her reading of the poem and watching her hands dance with the words and feelings. I still remember when one of my favorite poets was the inaugural poet for President Kennedy - Robert Frost. I was a child but I loved the writings of Frost even then.ReplyDelete
I must go back and find out which poem Robert Frost delivered at President Kennedy's inauguration.Delete
Kudos to Dr Jill Biden for recognising Amanda Gorman's talent. What a gift to the Nation that poem is.ReplyDelete
Yes. I heard that it was Jill Biden too.Delete
I too watched the inauguration as it was and is important not just to America to have a stable leader but also to us all, Amanda Gorman blew the whole event out of the park and she at 22 years of age showed such maturity and passion and love for her country and it’s peoples of all walks of life. I hope her family are proud of her because he like Greta Thunberg will change peoples minds and therefore hopefully go on to change the world. I also learnt today from watching an interview that she was also someone who battled against a stammer good for her to show that she is strong in mind and determined enough to not let it control her life.ReplyDelete
In that sense she is like Joe Biden himself. It was good to see a black woman on the podium because black lives really do matter. Thanks for leaving this thoughtful comment Sally.Delete
I missed most of the Inauguration. Most of the relevant parts were on the various news bulletins. I didn't hear this though so thank you.ReplyDelete
She has a life of words and acclaim ahead of her.Delete
She has become a superstar, now known the world over. For me, her "performance" was the best part of the whole show and her words certainly resonated in that benighted society to the south of us. It has a long, long way to come back from the abyss into which it has fallen, and I suspect that the 74 millions who voted for Donald Trump will be unwilling to let it happen.ReplyDelete
It seems utterly incredible that 74 million could vote for a golf playing misogynist from a reality TV programme who has built his life on lies and sloganizing nonsense, a man whose very appearance was fake and whose disinterest in the COVID pandemic killed so many Americans.Delete