Amanda Gorman. Wikimedia Commons.
In “The Hill We Climb” Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman delivers a profusion of beauty and profound truths that restore the human spirit, that restore hope almost destroyed by hundreds of years of systematic abuse.
In the words of the young poet the feather of truth carries formidable weight bringing to balance the scales of social justice, after our lives had so recently been shattered by barbaric domestic terrorists who murdered people, bashed windows, and desecrated the Capitol. The world witnessed the demoralizing desecration on January 6, 2021 then weeks later the world watched with astonished joy the miraculous restoration. Unity, power, hope, historical knowledge and symbols of movement and light empower this poem which reflects so much wisdom and cultural awareness and a compassionate love for life.
“We will rise from this wounded world into a wondrous one,” the poet promised, compassionately repeating the phrase “we will rise” an additional four times, echoing Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise. The poet, in the tradition of Chinua Achebe’s optimism in Morning Yet on Creation Day, reminds us to embrace this new dawn with hope.
Masks could not cover the radiant bursts of joy that filled neighbors’ eyes. Face coverings could not muffle the love that resonated in voices of neighbors joyfully greeting each other, in sharp contrast to the deadly fear and deadly silence that poisoned the opening days of this new year. I like the way Amanda moved her hands, as though she were dancing, a neighbor said. Through this vital poetic conversation with the listeners the poet restores human communication. The inaugural ceremony cleansed the atmosphere, cleaned the air we now breathed with collective relief.
Strangers who may not have expressed interest in poets before this ceremony held urgent conversations about a poet who “stole the show”. In the mall, in the banks, in the post office, in the grocery store, in all public spaces there continue to be animated conversation of the vibrant young poet, dressed in yellow, wearing a red band in her hair. “Did you know that she had a ring given to her by Oprah?” a man waiting on line in the supermarket asked me. The ring, with a cage, a connection to Maya Angelou’s autobiography. How had we gone from tragic despair to exuberant hope in just two weeks? Many of us wept as we watched the ceremony. Educators preparing to begin the spring semester owe a great debt to the young poet who articulated in minutes what could take more than months to explain.
In this truth, in this faith we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
History has its eyes on us.
This sophisticated use of time, the powerful personification, the repeated reference to historical injustices, including American enslavement, demonstrate ways of identifying horrific truths without inadvertently glorifying the horror and reducing listeners to suicidal despair. The current issue of the New York Caribnews headlines the inaugural poet, with her vibrant photograph on the front page, facing the closing lines of “The Hill We Climb”:
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
Didn’t Neil deGrasse Tyson say that not only do we live among the stars, the stars live in us? And didn’t Dr. Tyson also say that the sun does more work is one second than the combined work of all human beings since the beginnings of human beings?
In ‘The Hill We Climb” Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman continuously enlightens, continuously brings us to the light and continuously bathes our world in beauty.
“When day comes, we step out of the shade.
Aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.”
Professor Oseye Ebele teaches at Pace University.