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Long Live “In This Place (An American Lyric)”

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This April, through “The Poetry of Home” videos, we have worked to bring our poets laureate to the country virtually. But I wanted to point out another great video launched recently, through our friends at Mass Poetry, to which the Poetry and Literature Center has a special connection!

Amanda Gorman performing at the Library of Congress. Photo by Shawn Miller.

On April 14th, as part of the Poetry Coalition’s nationwide programming initiative “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing: Poetry & Protest,” Mass Poetry presented a video of “In This Place (An American Lyric)” by former (and inaugural) National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. They describe the video as “a stirring choral recitation . . . [that] features 16 Massachusetts poets hailing from across the state.” It’s a remarkable way to both amplify the poem and showcase the wealth of voices from throughout the Bay State (where Amanda attends college).

Watching this video reminds me of the first time I heard Amanda’s grand poem: two-and-a-half years ago, at Tracy K. Smith’s opening reading as the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. For the first time in the history of the office, our then U.S. Poet Laureate had chosen another laureate to open up the event—and Amanda had written “In This Place (An American Lyric)” for the occasion. You can imagine how wowed the at-capacity crowd was that night when Amanda performed the poem, and of course that moment was also captured on video and archived as a webcast! Watch from 1:19 to see the Librarian of Congress introduce the National Youth Poet Laureate program and sing Amanda’s praises.

But that wasn’t the last time we got to feature Amanda. Following the reading, she contributed a monthly guest post to our From the Catbird Seat blog as the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate. Her first post captures her experience reading the poem and includes the text of the poem as well (which was first published by Split This Rock). I hope you take the chance to read through her posts and learn more about the poet behind the poem. And kudos to Mass Poetry for such a moving video.