Amanda Gorman has revealed a friend told her to buy a bulletproof vest if she was going to read at Joe Biden’s inauguration, while another warned her “to be ready to die”.
The poet wrote an essay explaining why she was “terrified” to read at the inauguration, a year when she read “The Hill We Climb” on the steps of the Capitol in Washington DC. The poem garnered widespread praise and Mrs. Gorman herself became known worldwide after the inauguration.
In a test for The New York Timesshe said she almost declined to be the inaugural poet, as she feared her safety would be at risk during the event.
Mr Biden’s inauguration took place on January 20, 2021, 14 days after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a deadly insurgency. Also, young adults like Ms. Gorman couldn’t get a Covid shot at the time.
“The truth is, I almost refused to be the inaugural poet. Why? I was terrified,” she wrote.
She explained that she was “afraid of disappointing my people, my poetry”, and was “also physically terrified”.
“Covid was still raging, and my age group couldn’t get vaccinated yet,” she wrote. “A few weeks before, domestic terrorists had attacked the United States Capitol, the very steps I would recite. I didn’t know then that I was going to be famous, but I knew at the inauguration I was going to be very visible – which is a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you’re black and outspoken and n don’t have Secret Service.”
Those close to Ms Gorman also feared for her safety. “I had insomnia and nightmares, barely ate or drank for days,” she said. “I finally wrote to close friends and family, telling them that I was most likely going to withdraw from the ceremony.”
“My mom made us squat in our living room so she could practice protecting my body from bullets,” she said. “A loved one warned me to be ‘ready to die’ if I went to the Capitol, telling me, ‘It’s not worth it.'”
Ultimately, the night before she was to make her final decision about attending, Gorman examined her fear and discovered that she was very afraid to spend “the rest of [her] life wondering what this poem could have accomplished. She resolves to take part in the inauguration and commits herself “totally” to her choice.
After the inauguration, Gorman’s book The hill we climb (a hardcover edition of his inaugural poem), became a bestseller and was to be published in 20 territories in addition to the United States.
Gorman is also the author of Change singsa picture book and Call us what we weara collection of poetry released in December 2021.
The Independent Gt