Young poet laureate Amanda Gorman has said she felt an “enormous responsibility” to reflect on the violent US Capitol riots in her six-minute poem for the presidential inauguration.
The 22-year-old Harvard graduate took the world by storm with an electric reading of her poem entitled The Hill We Climb as new president Joe Biden was sworn in on Wednesday.
Speaking to NBC News’ Lester Holt following the inauguration, Ms Gorman said she knew she had to reference the 6 January events in order to “re-purify” the idea of the United States.
She said: “I had around three minutes of the six minute poem done when the 6 January event occurred, and it was kind of like a bombshell went off in my brain.”
She added: “On the one hand there was this moment of horror and disgust of what was happening, but then I felt an enormous responsibility to say ‘okay, this is occurring, what am I going to do about it?’
“And even more importantly, ‘what am I going to write?'”
Ms Gorman, who woke up a superstar on Thursday and topped Amazon’s best seller list for her debut poetry collection, continued: “I definitely tried to weave through that type of understanding and reconciliation with this event in the poem, that is to say that I wanted to use the words to re-sanctify a space and a building that had been violated.
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“I wanted to use my words to kind of re-purify this idea of the United States, which we had seen so tainted via violence.”
Ms Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history to mark the transition of presidential power, joining the likes of a very select few before her including Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided America on Wednesday.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Ms Gorman said on the Capitol steps just two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
Her performance won instant acclaim from people across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Former first lady and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait.”
TV host Oprah Winfrey also applauded her, tweeting: “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering-and so am I”.
The recent university graduate, who has seen her social media following boom since inauguration day, says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth, before becoming the first US National Poet Laureate in 2017.