Amanda Gorman has captivated the world with her poetry. Chipped from the block of Queen Maya Angelou, with the grace of a regal feline, Gorman has taken up space in a lane that she has created for herself; a lane cool enough for her, and a lane full of pride and peace.
After speaking at Joe Biden's Presidential Inauguration, her stardom has catapulted, even providing an opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl (the first poet to ever do so btw). And she's unapologetic about it, in fact, she feels at home. Why? Because she has prepared herself to be here. Recently, the 22-year old sat down with Forever First Lady, Michelle Obama for an interview with Time Magazine. And the gems were as presidential, classic, and black as you can imagine.
Amanda Gorman on the mantra she recites to herself before performing:
"This mantra I'm about to say is actually in part inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda's lyrics in Moana in the song, 'Song of the Ancestors.' Whenever I listen to songs, I rewrite them in my head. That song goes: 'I'm the daughter of the village chief. We're descended from voyagers who made the way across the world.' Something like that. Sorry Lin. I really wanted something that I could repeat because I get so terrified whenever I perform.
"So my mantra is: 'I'm the daughter of Black writers who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.' I say that to remind myself of ancestors that are all around me whenever I'm performing."
On poets that came before her:
Gorman has paid her dues to those she has carried the baton to the forefront for, giving them ample praise:
"I love Black poets. I love that as a Black girl, I get to participate in that legacy. So that's Yusef Komunyakaa, Sonia Sanchez, Tracy K. Smith, Phillis Wheatley. And then I look to artists who aren't just poets. I was also listening to the composers who I feel are great storytellers, but they don't use words so I try to fill in that rhetoric myself."
On her speech and communication struggles:
A little known fact, is that she had difficulty with sounding out words (whaat!?) most of her life. It wasn't until recently, that the Harvard grad conquered the challenge, but she still struggles at times, telling the Forever First Lady:
"President Biden has talked about having a stutter. Maya Angelou was mute for several years. I could not say certain sounds, like r, so I would be saying things like poetwee or dolla. My last name is Gorman, and I could not say that really until three years ago. For a long time, I looked at it as a weakness. Now I really look at it as a strength because going through that process, it made me a writer, for one, because I had to find a form in which I could communicate other than through my mouth, and two, when I was brave enough to try to take those words from the page onto the stage, I brought with me this understanding of the complexity of sound, pronunciation, emphasis."
On her family life and twin sister:
"As twins, we're actually pretty dissimilar. But what bonds us isn't our personalities; it's our values. We've been raised like you, by a strong Black woman who taught us to value our ideas and our voices. It's really interesting when you have two daughters, especially two Black daughters close in age, because they're kind of operating as—I don't want to say each other's mothers—but sisters and then some. If I act out of line, the first person who's going to know about it is my sister, and vice versa."
And finally, on the advice she has for little black girls around the world:
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Gorman's advice is incredibly real:
"I would say anyone who finds themselves suddenly visible and suddenly famous, think about the big picture. Especially for girls of color, we're treated as lightning or gold in the pan—we're not treated as things that are going to last. You really have to crown yourself with the belief that what I'm about and what I'm here for is way beyond this moment. I'm learning that I am not lightning that strikes once. I am the hurricane that comes every single year, and you can expect to see me again soon."
What a beautiful, enamoring, poised, humble soul. We look forward to everything single project she releases from here to forever.
Read the full interview here.
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Featured image by mccv / Shutterstock.com