by Amanda Gorman
On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe with her call for unity and healing.
Before or after reading the poem
- Learn more about poet Amanda Gorman, the First National Youth Poet Laureate, by watching this TedEd speech and this video about her story.
- In the interview, Gorman says poetry helped her to trust in the “power of your inner voice over that which people might hear through their ears.” What do you think she means by this?
- Gorman was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder and learning disability in kindergarten. She speaks positively and openly about her disability, but often the media portrays disability differently. Read a few articles addressing this here and discuss the ideas presenting in these articles before or after reading the poem as a class.
Discussion questions from SOMN
- What do you think is the central theme or message of the poem? Do you think Gorman is effective in getting her message across?
- Which lines are your favorite from the poem and why?
- What do you think Gorman means when she writes, “We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace”?
- Reflect on the lines and how they apply to movements for social justice including the disability rights movement:
“That even as we grieved, we grew,
That even as we hurt, we hoped,
That even as we tired, we tried.”
- Gorman’s line “While we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us” is perhaps a nod to one of her favorite artists, Lin Manuel Miranda. Listen to History Has Its Eyes on Me from “Hamilton,” then discuss whether you think Gorman was influenced by the song and how she may have transformed it into something new in her poem. What do you think she means by this line?
Classroom activities from SOMN
- Watch this video of Gorman reciting her poem at the inauguration.
- Learn more about the National Youth Poet Laureate program and past winners here. Then individually or in small groups research poet laureates in your town and state. Share what you learned with the class.
- There are a number of performances by Gorman on YouTube. Individually or in groups, find your favorite video and share it with the class along with your impressions and reflections.
- Learn about poetry and write your own with classroom poetry activities here, here, and here, or create your own.