‘For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it. ‘ These words by Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet from her poem, ‘The hills we climb’ was a delight to hear during yesterday’s inauguration. Amanda herself was simply mesmerizing. She dazzled us with words and performance that was not only divine but truly reflected the best in being a poet. From the beginning these words ‘When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?,’ made me realize how lucky future generations will feel to hear the gift of words from Amanda. She is sterling, significant for our times and a bright ray of hope for a future full of impediments. In an interview with CNN, she noted that when she gets nervous during her recitals, she says these words to herself ‘I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chain and changed the world. They call me.’ Imagine reciting this to oneself on a daily basis and when nervous. I am and remain in awe of her gift that all I can say is keep Amanda Gorman in mind. She is truly one to watch.
For poetry yesterday as part of homeschooling, we read the poetry of Margaret Esse Danner, especially her poem “This African Worm.’ Every week my daughter picks out a poem she likes and we spend sometime reading the poem, studying the poet, while trying to make sense of the lessons learnt from the poem. Margaret Esse Danner was a prolific poet, born in Kentucky but grew up in Chicago. She was the first African American assistant editor at Poetry magazine. Her poetry often engages African artwork and culture.
Her ‘This African Worm’ resonates with ongoing struggles in our society today often faced by people everywhere. No matter where you are, the struggles are the same. Whether it’s a fight for justice or equality, whether it’s a fight to end hunger or poverty, no matter whether in Africa or North America, we all experience the same strife. Even to my daughter Lotanna, if you are a worm for now, that’s not good. We keep our heads low, as we make sense of the burden we are experiencing. We crawl and wait as Ms. Danner’s poem suggested. Until a time comes when things change, when things start to shift. Though we may crawl today, though our heads maybe low today, but there is hope in the wait. There is hope even as we take little steps or crawl like worms while making sense of our journey. That in the end, is the essence of life. That one day, one day, things will truly get better for people everywhere.
This hope was evident in a comment shared by Margaret Esse Danner in an essay we found about her online at the University of Chicago library for a book entitled Black Poets in America in 1975-she wrote, “As for my poetry: I believe that my dharma is to prove that the Force of Good takes precedence over the force for evil in mankind. To the extent that my poetry adheres to this purpose it will endure.”
Your poetry endures today Ms. Danner and a new generation, my daughter’s generation in particular, will use your words for good. Until then, I’ll keep waiting.