Amanda Gorman’s sensational recital of her own poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2020 almost didn’t happen, the poet has revealed.
In an essay for The New York Times, Gorman recalled how being “terrified” about possibly contracting the coronavirus, the fallout from the U.S. Capitol riot and the potentially dangerous visibility her recital would give her almost saw her turn down the offer to perform.
High visibility is “a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you’re Black and outspoken and have no Secret Service,” she wrote.
“It didn’t help that I was getting DMs from friends telling me not-so-jokingly to buy a bulletproof vest,” said Gorman, remembering how “my mom had us crouch in our living room so that she could practice shielding my body from bullets” and “a loved one warned me to ‘be ready to die’ if I went to the Capitol building, telling me, ‘It’s just not worth it.’”
Watch Gorman’s inauguration recital here:
“I had insomnia and nightmares, barely ate or drank for days,” she continued. “I finally wrote to some close friends and family, telling them that I was most likely going to pull out of the ceremony.”
Ultimately, after a long period of reflection, Gorman said the fear she’d “spend the rest of my life wondering what this poem could have achieved” spurred her to perform.
“I can’t say I was completely confident in my choice, but I was completely committed to it,” she added.