What is this strange feeling? Joy? Relief? Joyful relief? Here in the US, we’re still in the middle of a series of catastrophes — a raging pandemic, climate change, systemic racism, domestic terrorism, the list goes on. But for one day this week, for so many of us, the US Presidential Inauguration finally brought a chance to exhale. I will admit to being surprised at the emotional nature of the day. And to how strange it felt to wake up on Thursday, able to look at the news with a sense of optimism, rather than dread.
As a publisher and former editor, as well as a verbal thinker, I see the world through words, and the last four years have been a struggle. America’s first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, carried the day on Wednesday, summing up the feelings that I suspect I share with many of you, as well as how effective the distillation of language into poetry can help us better grasp the essence of what we’re experiencing. From an interview with CNN, Gorman makes this clear:
To me, words matter…We’ve seen over the past few years the way in which the power of words has been violated and misappropriated, and what I wanted to do is to reclaim poetry as that site in which we can repurify and resanctify…the power of words.
Early in the day Wednesday, Laura Helmuth, Editor in Chief of Scientific American shared a link to The End and the Beginning (2001) by Wislawa Szymborska, which captures both the optimism and the long road ahead. The poem begins with the stanza:
After every warsomeone has to clean up.Things won’tstraighten themselves up, after all.
As I wrote back in November, real, substantive change takes hard work and time, but we are now far better positioned to bring about that change.
The highlight of the day though, was Gorman’s soaring words. If you haven’t yet listened to her recite The Hill We Climb, please take five minutes out of your day to do so. And if you watched it live, watch it again.
And take a moment to breathe. Good. Now let’s get to work.