Amanda Gorman talks about a UN poem, a future presidency and a novel

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Amanda Gorman was asked to read a newly developed poem at the United Nations General Assembly, the young sensation took an in-depth look at the impact of several societal issues — such as hunger and poverty. poverty – on the preservation of the Earth.

Much like her moving inaugural poem last year, Gorman felt compelled to express the impact of unity through her poetic lyrics on the opening day of the 77th session Monday in New York. The 23-year-old poet created ‘An Ode We Owe’ in hopes of bringing all nations together to tackle various issues of disparity while preserving the planet.

Gorman once again graced the grand center stage in front of world leaders. Her fame skyrocketed after reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” during the inauguration of President Joe Biden, which made her the youngest inaugural poet in US history. Her poem quickly topped bestseller lists and made her one of the most in-demand poets, landing her on other big stages like the Super Bowl and in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Gorman opened up about her hopes for the United Nations poem, her future plans for the presidency, the resentment she has over its commercial success, and her desire to write one day. a novel.

Political cartoons about world leaders

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Notes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: What do you want listeners to take away from your poem?

GORMAN: What I hope people can take away from the poem is that while the issues of hunger and poverty and illiteracy may seem like Goliath and are so huge, it’s not necessarily that those issues are too important to conquer. But they are too big to walk away from.

AP: What is the importance of having a young voice like you to speak at the general assembly?

GORMAN: When I was writing this poem, I kept having flashbacks to many years ago when I first came to New York. I was 16 years old and I came as a United Nations delegate for the Commission on the Status of Women. This was my first time engaging the UN as a space in any way. I just remember not seeing people who looked as young as me. I also looked like I was 11 at the time. I started marinating on this idea of ​​“I want to come back sometime in the future. I don’t just want to be a delegate. I want to be a presenter. I am not here to speak on behalf of young people, but to speak alongside them and with them.

AP: Why did you mention the Sustainable Development Goals in your poem?

GORMAN: I actually think there are sections of the population that have not yet been engaged or in any way informed or activated around the Sustainable Development Goals. A big part of what I like to do in the poem is to make sure that we raise awareness of these issues and show that these goals exist.

AP: How did you manage the transition to high profile stardom?

GORMAN: I’m still learning and growing so much. I think one of the things that has changed so much for me is just privacy. All of a sudden, I became someone – which I didn’t really expect – who made himself recognized in the street. If I go to a restaurant, even if I wear a mask, people are very good at spotting my face and/or my voice. I’m so grateful for that kind of exposure, even though sometimes I miss the individual privacy, because it means I have a platform I can use for good.

AP: How have people approached you in public?

GORMAN: I had an experience (Saturday) night. I was eating in a restaurant and a woman came up to me and started crying and saying how much my poetry meant to her. It’s breathtaking to me. This is no longer a rare event in my life. My friends started crying around me seeing the emotion of this woman. I had a great conversation with this woman before she moved on, and I have to take a moment, sit with the fact that there were so many people in the world who probably have the same answer than that person who didn’t touch me. I want to do them justice when I write. I want to honor them when I write. This is a very heavy request. But I also think it’s a profound privilege for me. I think that’s the thing I struggle with and draw power from when I write.

AP: Has notoriety changed your writing?

GORMAN: I think it hasn’t changed my songwriting in the sense that my voice and my style is still the same because the roots where I come from are still there. But I think it makes me think more creatively and imaginatively about ways to get these poems out into the world.

AP: Is it much harder to write these days?

GORMAN: I think the main difficulty for me writing poetry these days is, yeah, there’s a lot going on. But even though I am able to find time and space to write, I think the biggest challenge I can face sometimes is just my own self-sabotage in the sense that I feel so much pressure and so much look at me.

AP: How do you avoid distractions?

GORMAN: I’m like a 70 year old man in an 11 year old body. I have muscles that push me to walk away from technology and pretend it doesn’t exist. As if it didn’t exist. When I write, I tend to set all my devices to “Do Not Disturb”.

AP: Have you had to face resentment from the poetic community, which sometimes takes a dim view of commercial success?

GORMAN: The only type of trolling I experience is actually not from other poets. It comes from people who don’t write poetry. I hear things like, “What Amanda Gorman does isn’t that hard. I don’t understand why she is famous. I have no ill will towards these people. In fact, in a way, I feel bad for them because more often than not they’re people who haven’t been exposed to a lot of poetry in their lives, who haven’t been encouraged or challenged to write poetry in their lifetime. .

AP: What do you think of these skeptics?

GORMAN: I think the only thing I have to say to those people would be if you read my work and say, “Amanda Gorman’s writing is so easy for me to do and I can do better.” Oh my God. We need you. We need you to take a pen and write. It means you are going to be the next great voice in literature. I would like you to find a way, for lack of a better term, to dethrone me.

AP: Do you still intend to run for president one day?

GORMAN: Yeah, it still is. I obviously have a long way to go – not just in terms of years, but in terms of learning.

AP: Is there a timetable?

GORMAN: No, I just live and enrich my life with the understanding of “Wow, girl, you are a weapon of cultural and poetic power. This is where you decide what to do with it. Whether that follows an explicit specific chart for the presidency or whether it’s a little less orthodox and non-traditional chart than what we’ve seen, I think remains to be seen.

AP: Do you aspire to write anything other than poetry?

GORMAN: I love poetry, but I love all forms of writing. When I was younger, I actually wanted to be a novelist. But novels take – for me – more time than a single poem. That’s how my brain and my writing work. But I would like to release a little more prose, a little more essays. You will certainly have more than one verse for me.

GORMAN: I really like to tap into what I consider to be my literary ancestors Zora Neale Hurston or Toni Morrison, who wrote this beautiful prose, which I think comes from a culture of the language that they tapped into the African-American community. I think of the titans of writing in whose footsteps I would like to dance.

The text of Amanda Gorman’s poem, “An Ode We Owe”, read for the first time at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday:

How can I ask you to do good,

When we barely resisted

Our biggest threats to date:

The depths of death, despair and disparity,

Atrocities across cities, towns and countries,

Lost lives, decisive costs.

Exhausted, angry, we are in danger,

Not because of our numbers,

But because of our numbness. we are strangers

To the perils and pain of the other,

Unaware that the welfare of the public

And the planet shares a name–

It does not mean to be exactly the same,

The good of the world at its highest capacity.

The wise believe that our powerless people

Leave our planet without possibility.

Therefore, although poverty is a poor existence,

Complicity is a poor excuse.

Although this battle is hard and huge,

Although we didn’t choose this fight,

‘Cause keeping the earth ain’t too big a battle

Win, but a blessing too great to lose.

Here is the most pressing truth:

That our people have only one planet to call home

And our planet has only one people to call its own.

We can either divide and be conquered by a few,

Or we can decide to conquer the future,

And to say that today a new dawn we wrote,

To say that as long as we have humanity,

We will always have hope.

Together we won’t just be the generation

It only tries the generation that triumphs;

Where tomorrow is not led

But by our human conviction.

And while hope alone can’t save us now,

With her we can brave the present,

Because our toughest change hinges

On our darkest challenges.

As our crisis is our cry, our crossroads,

The oldest ode we owe ourselves.

We chime it, for the climate,

We will respect and protect

Every part of this planet,

Give it to every heart on this earth,

Until no one’s worth is returned

By race, sex, class or identity

They were born. This morning let it be sworn

That we are a single human parent,

Founded not only by sorrows

We endure, but with the good we begin.

I only ask that you care before it’s too late,

That you live conscious and awake,

That you lead with love to hours of hate.

I challenge you to answer this call,

I challenge you to shape our destiny.

Above all, I dare you to do good

To make the world big

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Irene B. Bowles