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Reflecting on the white supremacist rally that racked Charlottesville, Va. last month, Amanda Gorman ’20—the country’s inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate—recited her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric)” in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 13.
A sophomore in Leverett House and Los Angeles, Calif. native, Gorman was named the nation’s premier young poet in April. In Washington this month, she spoke alongside National Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, addressing issues of racial inequality in America.
“Social and economic inequality are always at the forefront of my work. With some new pieces I'm writing, I'm hoping to address the tumultuous climate in the US at the moment, as well as the need for a continued conversation on power and privilege,” Gorman wrote in an email.
Gorman, who previously served as Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the West and has published a poetry book, cited Toni Morrison and Yusef Komunyakaa as two of her artistic influences.
“There's a chant I say to myself whenever I am about to perform: ‘I'm the daughter of black writers, we are descended from freedom fighters, who broke chains and changed the world.’ It's a reminder of the shoulders I stand on,” she said.
Still, Gorman said, balancing her duties as Youth Poet Laureate with her Harvard course load isn’t always easy.
“Balancing school work at a rigorous school like Harvard while traveling as Youth Poet Laureate can be difficult—let alone keeping up a healthy social life and self-care,” she wrote. “I find it's about prioritizing who I want to affect with my title, and prioritizing the people I want to use my limited time with: family and friends who uplift me.”
Gorman said Harvard is an inspiring place to continue her work as National Youth Poet Laureate.
“It's so fantastic to be in an area with deep roots in poetry,” she wrote. “From Elizabeth Bishop, to Jorie Graham, to Tracy K. Smith, our country's best poets, especially women, have touched this city, and every day I'm inspired to try to walk in their footsteps.”
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