Amanda Gorman is the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. She says poetry can give voice to a new generation of leaders.
Has poetry always been a part of your life?
I began writing songs when I was 5. In middle school, I began shifting away from music and toward poetry and spoken word.
What has poetry done for you?
Poetry allows me to choose my own voice. Even my prose never feels like my own voice unless it plays with alliteration, metaphor, and simile, and connects different types of images and symbols the way [my] poems do.
How did you start out as a youth leader?
My mom is an English teacher. She’d bring me into her classroom to lead poetry workshops. That’s how I developed my skills in teaching.
How did this work grow?
When I was 16, I started an organization called One Pen One Page. On the website, students from around the world can tell their stories. Every year, we hold a symposium. It’s all about using rhythm and spoken word to effect social change within your community.
Have you found kids to be enthusiastic poets?
Kids come to poetry without limitations about what it can be. They want to write about everything under the sun.
What do you see as your role as the first National Youth Poet Laureate?
I want to reach out to youth from a broad range of the American experience. And I want to connect issues of social justice to the art of writing.
What is an important social justice issue facing young people today?
Many people in the United States are prevented from voting. That is something young people are going to have to fight for. You’ve said you’d like to run for president one day.
What would be your main issues as a candidate?
First of all, education. Education is about creating the next generation of changemakers. Equality of race and gender are also important to me. So are preserving land and water and making sure everyone has access to them. You just hope you can add your little raindrop to the storm and make change.