Amanda Gorman is a force of nature. The Harvard sophomore, recently named the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, published her first collection of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015. Between sociology classes and her laureate responsibilities, she also continues to lead the organization, One Pen One Page, which she founded in 2016 to give student storytellers an opportunity “to change the world.” As a girl, Gorman struggled with a speech impediment, but she credits her Solo Mom with giving her a strong grounding in the importance of education and literacy—a grounding Gorman firmly believes has informed her own journey.
“Having a mother as a sixth-grade English teacher in an inner-city public school gave me an up-close and personal view of how literacy influences young students,” Gorman told Study Breaks in 2017. “I realized that education can really be a life-or-death resource. . . . School and college is a pathway to get off the streets, to break a cycle.” Gorman, who explored these themes in her poem “Neighborhood Anthem,” says that her mom has been a great role model: “My mother worked so hard while raising three kids to get her doctorate and master’s degrees in Education. She inspires me every day to seek higher education not only for myself, but for the other students around me.”
Gorman is matter of fact about her speech impediment, which brings its own unique challenges to the spoken-word poet. “Often I’ll be preparing to read a poem and think—well, there’s a word I’m going to have difficulty saying,” she told The Project for Women in 2017. “Should I change it? I found it’s about staying true to myself and not compromising my respect for my voice for anything. If someone can’t understand what I’m saying, I’m going to say it anyways—they can look up the text later!”
Gorman, who likes the “permanency” of ink and does much of her writing pen to journal, says she creates to instrumental music, such as the movie scores by Michael Giacchino. “I can’t write to music with lyrics, but music is a crucial part of my process,” Gorman told Study Breaks. “It helps remind me that each poem has its own rhythm.”
And does she have advice for girls looking to follow their own passions? “If I [were] going to say one thing, it would be that you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel like an imposter,” Gorman told Girlboss in 2016. “Because what you’re doing is real . . . I would say if you really want to get things done, if you really want to accomplish your goals, you have to keep going even in times of immense self-doubt.”
Self-doubt seems to be something the poet herself has effectively wrestled to the mat. “This is a long, long, faraway goal, but 2036 I am running for office to be president of the United States,” Gorman told the New York Times in 2017. “So you can put that in your iCloud calendar.”
Force of nature? Indeed.
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