- At 22, Amanda Gorman was the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration.
- Ahead of her reading, Oprah gifted Gorman a pair of earrings and birdcage ring, referencing previous inauguration poet Maya Angelou's work "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
- Oprah also sent Angelou a gift before her reading at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration.
At 22, Amanda Gorman has made history as the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration. And when she took the stage at the during Joe Biden's inauguration to read her poem "The Hill We Climb" before millions of viewers, Gorman wore a gift from Oprah, a fan of her work.
Specifically, Oprah sent Gorman a pair of gold hoops with a hanging diamond from Nikos Koulis's Energy Collection, as well as a birdcage ring by Of Rare Origin to honor previous inauguration poet Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Gorman paired the jewelry with a bright yellow Prada coat, yellow being her favorite color.
For Oprah, this gesture continues her tradition of supporting poets ahead of their meaningful address. When Angelou was chosen to read a poem at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration, Oprah sent her a blue Chanel coat and a pair of gloves to wear for the occasion.
Translation? It wouldn't be a stretch to say that for Oprah, Gorman is following in Angelou's footsteps. Now, Gorman and Oprah are in touch. “Every single time I get a text from [Oprah] I fall on the floor,” Gorman told Vogue.
Reading at the inauguration is the latest in a series of extraordinary accomplishment from the young poet, whose work often reflects on ideas of citizenship, justice, and belonging. When Gorman was 16, she was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. Three years later, while a sophomore at Harvard, she became the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate.
Gorman's inauguration poem, "The Hill We Climb," was influenced by the riots at the capitol that took place during President-elect Joe Biden's confirmation hearing. "I wanted it to be a message of hope and unity. And I think that Wednesday for me really just underscored how much that was needed," Gorman said on CBS This Morning. "But to not turn a blind eye to the cracks that really need to be filled."
The New York Times published a preview of "The Hill We Climb" days before the inauguration.
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.
Gorman and her twin sister, Gabrielle, were raised by a single mother, Joan, who is also an English teacher. Growing up in L.A., Gorman was self professed "weird child" who read and wrote constantly. However, she had to work to become the powerful orator she is today. Gorman struggled with a speech impediment thorough high school.
"Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, 'you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn't enough for me. I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.' That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment," she told CBS This Morning.
Gorman's poems come to life when she reads them. Just try watching this reading of her poem "The Month of Miracles," written during the pandemic, without getting the chills.
Gorman shared her preparation routine ahead of the address. "Whenever I perform is I say a mantra to myself, which is 'I'm the daughter of Black writers. We're descended from freedom fighters who broke through chains and changed the world. They call me.' And that is the way in which I prepare myself for the duty that needs to get done," she told CBS This Morning.
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As a culture editor at Oprah Daily, Elena covers the latest in books, movies, TV, pop culture, and the ever-expanding world of streaming. Prior to Oprah Daily, Elena worked as an entertainment writer at Refinery29 for three years, writing about everything from royals to reality TV, and developing the site’s book section. She also got to meet Jane Fonda, but that’s another story. For fun, she likes reading, writing romances on Wattpad (and elsewhere), taking long walks in the city, and cracking herself up with elaborate Instagram stories. Her super-power is matching people up with the right book.
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