Bimbo Banter

How Amanda Gorman Brought Back the Craft of Poetry

  • Trends
  • January 22, 2021
  • by Merrie Spaeth

Finally, a real poet! Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman’s poem, as part of the inauguration of President Joe Biden, signals a return to real poetry. We’ve seen what used to be described as “free verse,” but there’s rarely been any verse at all to modern poetry. By contrast, Gorman’s verse is full of familiar devices such as rhyme or sound similarities and the repetition of consonants.

Thus, we have, “It’s because being an American is more than a pride we inherit, / it’s a past we step into / and how we repair it.” Read aloud, the lines have cadence and rhythm and “inherit” links to “repair it.” Or, “but within it we found the power / to author a new chapter / To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.” Again, read aloud “chapter” rhymes with “laughter.” The language linkage isn’t obvious enough to be cloying—like a Broadway song—but is strong enough to capture our ears.

Phrases like “We seek harm to none and harmony for all” may seem like platitudes, but read in a strong voice, particularly on this momentous occasion, they rang true. Consider the use of repetitive consonants provided, “We are striving to forge a union with purpose / To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and / conditions of man.” It’s not quite alliteration, but the repetition of the consonants makes it memorable.

I write approvingly and enthusiastically because, as part of a group dubbed “Young Poets of New York” by the famed 92nd street Y in 1970, I had the misfortune to write when all the traditional conventions of poetry were being scornfully dismissed. Gorman did more than compose a moving contribution to a ceremony, she brought back the craft of poetry, and she is a true celebration of tradition, which could make a great contributing theme for the Biden presidency. 

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