At the age of 22, the Los Angeles-born writer and performer is the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration.
She told the BBC’s World Service she felt “excitement, joy, honour and humility” when she was asked to take part in the ceremony, “and also at the same time terror”.
Her poem, The Hill We Climb, is a new composition she said she hoped would “speak to the moment” and “do this time justice”.
“The Hill We Climb” reads, in part:
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.
Like Obama inaugural poet Richard Blanco, who invoked the grand sweep of American geography in a call for unity in “One Today,” Gorman dedicated a portion to “every corner called our country,” from the South to the Midwest. She ended with an invitation to “step out of the shade.”
“The new dawn blooms as we free it,” she said. “For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it – if only we are brave enough to be it.”
Gorman was following in the footsteps of poets like Blanco, Robert Frost and Maya Angelou as she composed the poem “The Hill We Climb” for the inauguration.
Gorman, like Biden, had a speech impediment as a child. (Biden had a stutter; Gorman had difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.) She told NPR’s Steve Inskeep that her speech impediment was one reason she was drawn to poetry at a young age.
Gorman is a Los Angeles native who was raised by her mother, a teacher named Joan Wicks, with her two siblings. She has a twin sister, Gabrielle, who is an activist.
Gorman has said she grew up in an environment with limited television access. She had a speech impediment as a child. She has described her young self as a “weird child” who enjoyed reading and writing and was encouraged by her mother.
Gorman has said she has an auditory processing disorder and is hypersensitive to sound.