Harvard University sophomore Amanda Gorman is the first youth poet to open the Library of Congress’s literary season, The Harvard Crimson reported.
On Wednesday night, Tracy K. Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Princeton professor, gave her inaugural reading as the newest poet laureate of the United States. Smith, who was born in Falmouth and attended Harvard University, succeeds poet Juan Felipe Herrera in the field’s most prestigious role.
Before welcoming Smith to the stage, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden introduced Gorman.
“In her 19 years, LA-native Amanda Gorman has done more to speak out, organize, and give back than most of us do in a lifetime,” Hayden said. “And tonight we have the privilege to hear Amanda read a poem she has composed especially for this occasion.”
In April, Gorman was chosen to be the first National Youth Poet Laureate, surpassing four other finalists representing five regions across the country.
She also previously served as Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the West and published a book of poetry in 2015, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough,” according to her website.
Gorman read her poem “In This Place (An American Lyric),” in which she referenced both the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and protests that have taken place in Boston’s Copley Square:
There’s a poem in Boston’s Copley Square
where protest chants tear through the air
like sheets of rain
where love of the many swallowed the hatred of the few
There’s a poem in Charlottesville
where tikki torches string a ring of flame
tight round the wrist of night
where men so white they gleam blue —
seem like statues
where men heap that long wax burning
where Heather Heyer
blooms forever in a meadow of resistance.
Gorman posted a video of her entire poem on Facebook:
Sophia Eppolito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SophiaEppolito.