“I am at this moment the direct voice of the poets of my race,” said Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral in 1945 upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, humbly summing up the titanic responsibility of those who speak in verse.
Nearly eighty years later, young poet Amanda Gorman confirms Mistral’s words.
At only 24 years old, Gorman was the first person to be named National Youth Poet. She published her first book of poetry, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough,” in 2015, and in 2021 she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The scope of her verses at a pivotal moment in the country’s history transformed her into an acclaimed poet. Soon after, two of her books achieved best-seller status.
Today, Amanda Gorman has graced the cover of major magazines, made it to Time magazine’s influential lists, and was even the first poet to perform at the Super Bowl.
In celebration of her birthday, at BELatina, we wanted to compile our favorite stanzas from Amanda Gorman’s work, those verses that steal our breath and restore our faith in the sublime.
On the hope of a nation
“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 just-ice.”
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.”
Excerpt from “The Hill We Climb.”
A reflection on the pandemic
Allegedly the worst is behind us.
Still, we crouch before the lip of tomorrow,
Halting like a headless hant in our own house,
Waiting to remember exactly
What it is we’re supposed to be doing.
& what exactly are we supposed to be doing?
Penning a letter to the world as a daughter of it.
We are writing with vanishing meaning,
Our words water dragging down a windshield.
The poet’s diagnosis is that what we have lived
Has already warped itself into a fever dream,
The contours of its shape stripped from the murky mind.
To be accountable we must render an account:
Not what was said, but what was meant.
Not the fact, but what was felt.
What was known, even while unnamed.
Our greatest test will be
Excerpt from “Ship’s Manifest.”
On the hope of a new year
May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.
Excerpt from “New Day’s Lyric.”
On being nostalgic for the past
The closest we get to time travel
Is our fears softening,
Our hurts unclenching,
As we become more akin
To kin, as we return
To who we were
Before we actually were
Anything or anyone—
That is, when we were born unhating
& unhindered, howling wetly
With everything we could yet become.
To travel back in time is to remember
When all we knew of ourselves was love.
Excerpt from “Back to the Past” found in “Call Us What We Carry“