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On 20th January 2021 at President Biden’s inauguration, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest ever inaugural poet, blew everyone away with her five-and-a-half-minute poem The Hill We Climb.

Perfectly balanced between a tone of optimism and a sharp awareness of the increasing divisions and strain that the USA had felt under the Trump presidency, the poem was an incredibly masterful representation of the mood in America following a politically fraught few weeks.

Her words so powerfully captured the mood of this historic moment that overnight, Gorman had become an Amazon best-seller. She was also selected to recite an original poem for Superbowl LV and has signed a contract with IMG models following her success at the inauguration. So, who is the poet who has stolen the hearts of Americans and the world?

Amanda Gorman was born and raised in LA, alongside her two siblings, by their single mother Joan Wicks. Growing up, Gorman struggled with the speech impediment Auditory Processing Disorder, making her achievements in the spoken-word poetry world all the more incredible. Those with the disorder find listening to particular sounds or styles of language more challenging than others. 

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she said that her disability “made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be.” She added that: “When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.”

Gorman garnered an interest in poetry at an early age, becoming interested in the form after her third-grade teacher read Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine to the class. Though Gorman has recently emerged into the global spotlight, her poetic career has been impressive since its early days.

In 2014, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate and in 2015 she published her first poetry collection The One for Whom Food is not Enough, at the mere age of 16. She was 19 years old when she became the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. In the same year, she performed at the Library of Congress where Dr Jill Biden discovered her and became a fan of her work.

Gorman is also passionate about helping fellow young people get involved with poetry, youth advocacy, and leadership development and in 2014 she founded One Pen One Page, a non-profit organisation to do just that.

Gorman credits her passion for education and engaging America’s youth to her mother, who was a sixth grade English teacher. In an interview with Study Breaks quoted by ESME, Gorman said: “Having a mother as a sixth-grade teacher in an inner-city public school gave me an up-close and personal view of how literacy influences young students. I realised that education can really be a life-or-death resource…school and college is a pathway to get off the streets, to break a cycle.”

Gorman also mentions that her mother, who worked to get her doctorate and master’s degrees in education while raising three kids, inspired her to “seek higher education not only for myself but for the other students around me.” 

Gorman’s academic career is as impressive as her poetic one, as she has graduated from her bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Harvard cum laude.

Amanda Gorman has already got a powerful list of achievements behind her and she’s only 22! I am excited to see what the future holds for this formidable and inspirational young poet and activist.

 

Social Media Manager for Her Campus Bristol, Second year English literature student, Aspiring Journalist
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