On January 20, 2021 -- words written and spoken by a 22-year-old Harvard grad poet lifted us up. Weary from weeks of pain and division, we were rallied by her to rise and climb. (photo below by Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
Her presentation was impeccable. She uses her hands like a hula dancer when she speaks. She is in the tradition of sacred story tellers. She even wore the statement colors of Yellow and Red. In ancient Hawaii, those colors could only be worn by the ali'i (royalty). This is my own years of living in Hawaii imbuing her performance with this layer of meaning. But is it really impossible to see her as a Hawaiian warrior princess in that moment?
More on those royal Hawaiian color traditions here:
photo below from Bishop Museum website shows the ahu'ula (royal cloak or cape) of King Kamehemeha I, made with feathers of rare birds (yellow feathers from Mamo and red feathers from I'iwi birds).
Poet Gorman found herself called to this moment by Dr. Jill Biden, who saw her at a previous event. Gorman also had a prior connection with Prada, the fashion house that designed her epic yellow coat.
Gorman's stunning performance was followed by interviews, profiles, and new opportunities. She already had two books finished and set to be released in early 2021.
Here are some excerpts:
about the coat..
"Perhaps the biggest statement was a bright-yellow jacket from the designer Miuccia Prada.
…..Jill is the reason Gorman landed her role as an inaugural poet. In 2017, Jill first came across Gorman from a video of her performance of "In This Place: An American Lyric," at the Library of Congress.
When Jill saw her stunning performance, it left a lasting impression. According to Vogue, so did Gorman's dress. In the video, Gorman was wearing a similar bright shade of yellow.
When people were discussing an inaugural poet for January, Jill reached out to Gorman to ask if she'd be willing to write and recite an original poem for the inauguration. She also added that she had loved her dress's color from the 2017 performance.
"She said, 'I saw this video of you and you were wearing yellow and I loved it,'" Gorman told Vogue…..Gorman stepped onto the stage wearing the brightest color of the day. Her sunshine yellow coat likely signified joy — a feeling some people across the country were feeling this afternoon.
To Jill, the coat's color likely felt familiar as it was the same shade Gorman wore in the video where Jill first saw her perform……
According to Vogue, Gorman intentionally chose a look by Prada.
Prada has a long history of strong feminist statements, which Gorman admires, per Vogue.
According to Prada's website, Gorman's coat was on sale for $1,666.37 and it originally sold for $2,777.28. The coat was sold out at the time of writing."
About her red headband
About her books (from indie bookseller Titcomb's Bookshop's Facebook page):
“We were so touched and inspired by Amanda Gorman's poetry today. We had the news on in the office and out in the shop, and we all stopped our work and just watched this young woman in awe. If you're wondering whether Gorman is coming out with any books, she is! Her book of poetry (https://www.titcombsbookshop.com/book/9780593465066) and her children's picture book (https://www.titcombsbookshop.com/book/9780593203224) are coming out in September of 2021, and you can pre-order them now!” https://www.titcombsbookshop.com/
Interviews and more articles here:
Backstage photo of the entire outfit...
from this site:
video of her reading her poem (PBS News Hour/You Tube)
Full text of her poem:
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 just-ice
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 a 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 promised 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
And 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 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 gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
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