The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem ‘raised hope’: Poetry readership on the rise

Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez II; MC1 for The Lafayette
Amanda Gorman was the youngest known inaugural poet in U.S. history. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On Inauguration Day, many Americans stopped to listen to the captivating words of Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old Harvard graduate, poem and activist.

Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” garnered praise from many publications and figures such as Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. 

Emerita Francis A. March Professor of English Lee Upton wrote in an email that, “Amanda Gorman’s performance at the inauguration was riveting. Her dynamism, her intensity, her commitment to addressing in a poem our fears and anxieties and our most daring hopes should encourage many more people to seek out poetry as a living art. She reminds us that when we write poetry and when we listen to poetry—with full attention—we feel more alive.”

English Professor Megan Fernandes shared a similar sentiment on the poem’s delivery.

Amanda Gorman reminded the American public that they do need art and that consistent engagement with the arts helps articulate what is embedded in the nation’s unconscious. Gorman named pain and people felt it. She raised hope and people met it. Her delivery and stage presence were magnificent,” Fernandes wrote in an email. 

The poem, which drew inspiration from Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the musical “Hamilton” had underlying themes of unity and overcoming challenge.

The poem ends with the lines: “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Fernandes wrote that some people were surprised by how moved they felt listening to Gorman.

“That ‘caught-off-guardness’ can teach us a lot about what we don’t acknowledge in our everyday lives and yet what people carry with them on the daily,” she wrote.

Fernandes also cited a rise in poetry readership since 2017 in an NEA survey.

“It makes sense that people turn to poetry when the country is in despair, but it’s also important to note that the rise in poetry readership has been most significant for young readers, women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and other non-white groups,” Fernandes wrote.

And poetry can offer benefits to its readers and writers too, according to Fernandes.

“I think of poetry not unlike prayer, in fact, I recite poems for people experiencing hardships according to an author or theme I might associate most with them,” Fernandes wrote. “What I’m saying is that poetry can offer spiritual relief and radical visions of other possible worlds to the people who need them most. Poems also condense our griefs and our exhaustion. Poems make our anxieties manageable or can transform them into political action.”

“Even when the readership shrinks, that’s okay, because poetry readership is small but extremely committed. If you put two poetry nerds together in a room, watch them spin and orbit each other. It’s a scene,” Fernandes added.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Katie Frost
Katie Frost, Managing Editor
Katie Frost is a senior English & history double major at Lafayette College. As a managing editor, she runs staff meetings and workshops, oversees the copy editing team and works with the editor-in-chief to finalize and approve all articles. Outside of the newsroom, Katie works as a writing associate, a supervisor for recreation services and an excel scholar in the history department. She also volunteers with Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and serves on the Lafayette Leadership Education Committee. In her spare time, she enjoys making lists, watching TV and making lists of TV shows she wants to watch next.

Comments (0)

If you wish for your response to an article to be submitted as a letter to the editor, please email [email protected].
All Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *