The following is a guest post by the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. This is the sixth in a series of monthly blog posts that Amanda will be writing during her laureateship this year.
Join Amanda tonight at the Library of Congress for a National Youth Poet Laureate Celebration. Amanda Gorman and the 2018 National Youth Poet Laureate finalists will participate in a reading and moderated discussion with Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word. Special guest Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, will give opening remarks. This event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Thursday, March 15, 6:30 PM. Mumford Room, sixth floor, Library of Congress James Madison Building.
This month is the marker of many things. It marks my last few weeks as U.S. Youth Poet Laureate—Wow! What a ride! I’ll be discussing more of my journey and these final moments in next month’s post, but for the moment I wanted to take some time to share with you what I’ve been focused on as I close up my year-long tenure.
This month is also Women’s History Month, and a perfect time to celebrate fantastic women writers (as we should every day). If you’re looking for poetic inspiration in light of International Women’s Day, which occurred on March 8, I suggest rereading your favorite women writers and finding some new ones. Some of my favorites include Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Alfonsina Storni, but who knows who yours might be! This is also a great month to encourage a women or girl you know to write—we don’t all need to become poets or published authors, but encouraging women around you to share their voices and believe in their ideas is a way for you to make history yourself this month.
In the last few days marking Black History Month, The New York Times published a coda to Black History Month that I wrote. The homage included two of my own poems—one recasting and linking the slogans used during the Civil Rights Movement (coincidentally, I ended up using the text from protest pins and flyers in the public archives of the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, both in D.C.), and the other attempts to thread a dream-like narrative of the estrangement experienced by African Americans in reference to the African continent. The New York Times used audio recordings of these original pieces to create animated text, which I was thrilled about as my work isn’t often presented in that unique form.
The same week, I was also honored to receive the first Youth Leadership Award at the Alumni of Color Conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I presented a keynote address. I spoke with Harvard black faculty and staff at a luncheon, where I read new poetry, and also presented the keynote at the Hardy Girls’ 11th Annual Girls Rock! Awards in Portland, Maine. That was a great springboard into Women’s History Month, as those who know me are aware I love working with young girls to discuss girls’ education and empowerment.
Entering spring break, I visited the JP Morgan Library and Museum, where I officially donated a hand-written version of my poem “In This Place: An American Lyric,” which I performed as an introduction to current U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith at the Library of Congress this fall (you can watch the full event here). The poem will be displayed until mid-summer as part of the Morgan’s highlighted collections, alongside the handwritten work of Mozart, Elizabeth Bishop, and many other fantastic voices.
To celebrate Women’s History Month even more, I joined Emma Gray, Executive Women’s Editor at the Huffington Post, for a panel and Q&A about her new book, A Girl’s Guide to Joining the Resistance: a Feminist Handbook on Fighting for Good. The panel included incredible women change-makers like Erin Cutraro, founder of She Should Run, and Jess Morales Rocketto, a NYC-based activist for low-income workers.
Currently I’m on a train, coming from speaking at Hostos Community College as part of their activities on women’s history throughout March. I’m also excited as tonight I will be meeting with youth and reading alongside other young poets at the Library of Congress; it will be great to return to the historic library. Then it’s back to Harvard and school work!