Cecilia Knapp, The Independent
On Wednesday night I sat in front of the news, watching the inauguration of the 46th president of the US. Truthfully, I only had half an eye on it. Then 22-year-old Amanda Gorman stepped up to the microphone and read her stunning poem ‘The Hill We Climb. ’ I was captivated.
That’s when the texts came in. My group chats kicked off. I love it when this happens, when poetry gets a good and proper showcase and people think: “Better text Cecilia”. I don’t often speak about poetry to my mates. I’m usually either reading or writing on my own, trying to pitch to a group of year nines why poetry is so great, or I’m tucking myself away with other die-hard poetry fans during my Monday night writing group (which my boyfriend affectionately calls ‘Geek Fest’.)
The point I’m making is that on Wednesday night, people were reminded of poetry’s power. Poetry, so often kept on a dusty shelf, came screaming into the spotlight saying, “look at me! Look at what I am capable of!”
I’m the current Young People’s Laureate for London. My job, over this next year, is to raise the visibility of poetry for young people. It’s something I’ve always been extremely focussed on, having had my life transformed by my introduction to creative writing.
Raising the visibility of poetry is exactly what Gorman, the former National Youth Poet Laureate of the US, did on Wednesday. She showed the power of poetry and what it can do. How it can respond to and challenge the world around us, protest and resist. How it can distil a feeling that is impossible to capture with our normal language or with political rhetoric. How it can help us to figure out ourselves and our moment, breed empathy for the lives of others, show what connects us and inspire hope.
Gorman achieved all this as a young black woman – centre stage in front of a sea of mostly white, much older politicians – delivering a charged, tightly-crafted, musical, vivid, accessible and unifying message; a message appealing for change, in front of millions, during a pandemic and a time of intense division. To say it is an achievement is an understatement.
Gorman models what poetry can do, but most importantly, she models that young people, and young black people, or young people from single parent families can do it. That poetry is a space they are entitled to; a space for them to discover themselves and their world, to have their say in their own voice. Seeing someone like yourself on stage, alongside popstars and politicians – having your voice and story valued – that’s empowering.
Sadly, I’ve seen on Twitter a somewhat sneering response from some to Gorman’s poem. Some say it’s not a ‘proper’ poem – but this only leads me to wonder what a ‘proper’ poem is, and who gets to police if it meets that standard? Who created that standard in the first place, and why should young poets have to adhere to that?
This poem is a poem of the moment and has lasting value. It may not be to some people’s taste, but to reduce it to being ‘not a poem’, is wrong, snobbish and arguably, full of prejudice. The world of poetry was opened up to me by watching and hearing it online in a way I felt included in.
And if Gorman’s poem inspires young people who’ve felt excluded from poetry before to engage with poetry, or even pick up a pen, then I’m all for it. It’s rare for poetry to get this platform, this chance to shine. Let’s celebrate it, and the power of the arts. It warms my January heart, like Bernie’s lovely mittens.
Poetry has always been the language of fire and comfort at once. If there is anyone who has proven that in the last month, it is Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, whose US inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb” resonated far and wide across the
Trump and his strong legion of followers have tasted sweet defeat. Biden and the dems have trumped albeit by the skin of their teeth. Whether US will be a force to reckon with or not is not as paramount at this juncture in time as the return of normalcy
Former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to reassure voters. Like former President Obama, he is promising that “If you like your health plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it.” Don’t bet on it. Some presidential candidates support directly outlawing private health plans, and replacing them with a single-payer, government-run health plan.
The 2020 election is shaping up arguably as the most fascinating presidential selection event in modern history. Republicans are going with an incumbent whose post-inaugural job approval until last weekend has never exceeded 46%, not coincidentally the exact same percentage of the popular vote he received.
Laying the foundation for the next 50 years may seem like a daunting task at first sight, but it is not a goal that is impossible to achieve and the Rulers know that full well. In fact, the word impossible does not exist in the UAE dictionary.
President Joe Biden hosted a summit meeting on Friday that could turn out to be a watershed — but if you weren’t watching, you might have missed it.
Come visit the Maldives, its president entreated the world at this year’s United Nations General Assembly, moments before switching to an impassioned plea for help combating climate change.
Two more beaches in India have been accorded the coveted international eco-label ‘Blue Flag’ — Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Puducherry — taking the total number of such beaches in the country to 10, the Indian Environment Ministry said last week.