My favourite true but not-cool-to-say observation about the inauguration last week was that it was kind of boring, in the most blissfully relieving way – and the exception that proved the rule was the instantaneous and universal reaction to poet laureate Amanda Gorman; everyone fell in love with her at exactly the same moment, possibly because when everyone was braced for yet more trauma, she seemed almost too good and too bright and too inspirational for this world.
But clearly, everyone needs more Amanda Gorman. Not only are her upcoming books, The Hill We Will Climb and Change Sings already bestsellers despite not being released for months, but as Lainey wrote yesterday, she’s signed to IMG Models who represent not only model-models like Gisele and Kate Moss, but multihyphenate stars like Chrissy Teigen, Selena Gomez, and Naomi Osaka.
Clearly, this is a move that highlights not just Gorman’s incredible writing, but her fashion sense and presence that made her the highlight of the whole day. Plus, in case you missed it, Gorman’s inauguration day outfit included a ‘caged bird’ ring from Oprah, meant to invoke Maya Angelou when she spoke, so you know she’s getting some very, very sage counsel as she steps into the entertainment world/actual world’s ferocious appetite for her perspective.
In fact, if you think I’m exaggerating how large her reach is, Gorman has been confirmed to perform a new poem AT THE SUPER BOWL pregame show, with a piece that “will recognize three honorary game captains chosen by the NFL, including Los Angeles teacher Trimaine Davis, Tampa nurse Suzie Dorner and Marine veteran James Martin”.
The SUPER BOWL. When’s the last time you associated ‘Super Bowl’ and ‘poetry’?
But this is the power of this young woman – she’s so authentic (a word I hate to use because it’s become a quantifiable commodity like anything else), she’s essential just about anywhere we can have her.
So, with every opportunity in the world now on the table (I can’t wait for the inevitable commencement addresses she’s asked to give in a couple of months), I’m even more struck by the choices and appearances she made before she had 100% name recognition– including this collaboration with MILCK:
You remember MILCK, whose anthem of frustration “Quiet”, and it’s impromptu choral performances were captured by director Alma Har’el and became the theme song of the women’s marches and the #MeToo movement?
She and Gorman collaborated on this piece for the National Day of Racial Healing, observed this year on January 19th, 2021 – that is, before the inauguration – and realizing that makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt how incredibly unusual Gorman is.
It’s not just the lyrics – this excerpt got me, in particular:
“To dress the wound we first have to address the pain
To honor the person we must say the name
And sometimes to heal the burn we must first forgive the flame
We reconcile what has been wrecked
Recover what has been covered over
And mend that which has gone unmentioned”
It’s the way she says them, in her own youthful voice, with the straightforward ‘these are just facts’ tone that doesn’t try to comfort or convince anyone, but reassures you that she sees them and knows how to express them, that makes her so compelling – and her partnership with MILCK reminds us how much we need young people to shake us out of old and tired, ‘some things never change’ ways of thinking. (The flipside of this is a much less inspirational video that you’ve probably already seen – Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg being harassed on the street by Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose naked envy (“How did you get 30 appointments with Senators? I got none”) cuts through her alleged “points”.
You can watch the full performance on the National Day of Racial Healing 2021 broadcast on YouTube. Gorman and MILCK perform at 21:45, but I was SO late handing in this piece because the whole thing is incredible, including the performance from the Detroit Youth Choir, and also appearances by Storm Reid, John Legend, Yara Shahidi, and so many others.
I’m not going to try to put pressure or expectations on Amanda Gorman – she clearly knows what she, and we, need much more than we do – but I hope she gets to keep charting the same path and keeping the same perspective she did before the rest of the world started paying attention.