America’s first national youth poet laureate. The youngest poet given the honour of delivering the presidential inaugural poem. Amanda Gorman. Not only was she able to craft and perform an exceptional poem, but she also did what English teachers have spent years trying to achieve. She made people who don’t like poetry, actually like poetry.
Poets are capable of emotionally ambushing us in a way that no other medium of art can. Verse cuts straight into the heart of things, and therefore cuts straight into the hearts of listeners and readers alike. Amanda Gorman’s reading of The Hill We Climb sent out a universal glimmer of hope in a time where hope was scarcely found, and confidently let people know the one thing they had been so desperate to hear: that they are not alone.
And yet, people shut out poetry at any chance they get.
There are few things that I hate more than the gatekeeping of poetry. The inherent elitism that people automatically attach to the writing process, the belief that it’s the most inaccessible form of art, reserved only for those ‘posh enough’ to understand it. One of the many beautiful things about poetry is its malleability. There are so few rules that you need to abide by. In fact, you decide what goes and what works, what helps you and what doesn’t, at your own will. On the surface, it’s something too niche, too fancy to understand, but beneath these layers is a creative outlet that allows for so much freedom I almost catch myself begging for some form of regulation. It’s open and vast and accessible – despite what you may think. Gorman proved that in her reading at Biden’s inauguration, and created something beautiful and inspiring in the process.
Poetry isn’t what you think.
It isn’t limited to the list of sonnets you studied in high school, with words fancy enough to lose understanding along the way. Poetry, actual, real, genuine poetry, is whatever you want it to be. Me trying to define it is ironic in and of itself. There is no definition. If you want rules, have rules. And if you don’t? Then don’t. If you see poetry where others do not, that is still poetry. Amanda Gorman was doing much more than just reading her poem, she was communicating. She allowed for millions of people to witness first-hand the capabilities creativity holds in times of pure desolation. She made us question our own place in the grand scheme of things with a wording so delicately chosen it was both incredibly elaborate yet profoundly accessible. And I hate the idea that these two things are ever even considered to be mutually exclusive.
There is a reason we turn to poetry in times of intense feeling, weddings or funerals, in honour of elation or grief, we desire to feel heard and understood. Poetry is a perfect example of art that not only replicates our emotions, but sees how we cope, how we live; poetry mimics the human experience. Amanda Gorman was the one brave enough to own this, and gave a voice to millions of people unable to communicate how they felt and what they needed.
The world is raw and bleak and damaged at the moment. It’s one thing to profit from it, but it’s another to use it as a muse to create something true and inspiring; hope truly is a thing with feathers. And so I’ll leave you with Gorman’s own words, at a time in which we yearn for those things that are hopeful and bright:
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.