Of course, there was Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez. But it was a young 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, who dazzled the world on Wednesday when the 46e President of the United States, and that in under six minutes.
I don’t know if poetry should rub shoulders with power, but I know that when power respects poetry, there is something to be a little reassured about. I mistakenly thought it had become a tradition at this ceremony, but there were actually only six poets invited to the inauguration of a president, and that, for only four presidents, all Democrats. : Robert Frost for John Kennedy, Maya Angelou and Miller Williams for Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco for Barack Obama… and Amanda Gorman for Joe Biden.
But on Wednesday, not only did Amanda Gorman become the youngest poet to receive this honor, but also she had to deliver her poem under unprecedented circumstances. Surrounded by masked people, without the usual crowd due to health and terrorist threats, but in front of the eyes of millions of viewers, in a country more fractured than ever. Which she did with incredible panache and absolute grace.
After four years of horror, indecency and bad taste under Trump, there was something almost blinding about so much beauty and dignity in such tense circumstances. I was not ready. It is another tragedy of this presidency: it has overshadowed what may be beautiful.
I wrote to Thomas, my American friend, a professor specializing in French-speaking literatures in New York, to find out if he knew her, but he had not noticed her until the future first lady, Jill Biden, who had seen her recite, did not choose her for the nomination. “DOCTOR Jill Biden”, he corrects, to recall the formation of the one who will certainly not be a decoration in the White House.
Amanda Gorman, a native of Los Angeles, raised by a teacher mother and single parent who allegedly suffered from stuttering like Joe Biden, is a committed artist for whom poetry is a radical weapon of social change, first winner of the National Youth competition Poet when she was a Harvard student. She published a collection in 2015, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, and will publish two other books in 2021 which will certainly be a hit. And she also said in an interview that she wants to run for president in 2036 …
In front of the cameras, she had a princely port and announced her colors: “We are the successors of a country and a time / where a skinny black girl / descendant of slaves and raised by a single mother / can dream of becoming chair / and end up reciting for one of them. (This is my humble spontaneous translation, I strongly invite you to read the poem in its original version.)
By reciting without failing his poem The Hill We Climb (The hill that we climb), that she revised and finished in a hurry after the murderous assault on the Capitol, her mission was to address unity and hope, but she did not ignore the serious evils affecting her country , “A nation that is not broken, but is just not over,” she said. “We have seen a force that would rather break our nation rather than share it / Who wants to destroy our country if it means holding back democracy / And it has almost succeeded / But if democracy can periodically be held back, it can never be definitively beaten. ”
Dressed in a superb yellow coat that matched the golden jewels in her hair crossed by a bright red headband, her hands fluttered over her words launched in the pure rhythm of the spoken word. She wore a ring on her hand showing a caged bird in homage to Maya Angelou, who titled the first volume of her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (I know why the bird in a cage sings), one of her inspirations, knowing what she owes him, she who considers herself the heir to African-American writers, themselves heirs to those who have broken their chains. Her jewelry was given to her by Oprah Winfrey, who wrote after her performance: “I have never been so proud to see another young woman rise up. Maya Angelou applauds – and so do I. ”
And it is with these words of hope, which instantly became viral quotes on social networks at the same time as the number of her subscribers exploded, that she ended up taking our breath away: “Because there always has light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to embody it. “(For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.)
But without poets like Amanda Gorman, it might be impossible to open your eyes. Because by her very presence on Wednesday, and by her words, she was that light.
> Listen Amanda Gorman delivering her poem (in English)