Tag Archives: #poetlaureate

Faltering Speech to Youth Poet Laureate: Words Carried Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s journey is stellar! Her ability to overcome her slippery speech serves as an excellent example to the multicultural children of America. Bilingual kids often have difficulty enunciating words because they hear their parents, who were brought up in India, pronounce words differently. The pressure to code-switch in order to be understood at home and in school may be challenging. Gorman is an excellent role model for all of us because she makes her words matter and her voice heard. 

Now a beautiful 22-year-old ambassador of poetry, Amanda Gorman, raised in West L.A. by a school teacher, struggled with a speech disability. She had difficulty enunciating her “Rrrrrrs”! She faced her challenges head-on. She used the power of the written word to formulate and strengthen her thoughts. She rehearsed with full vigor and powerful poetry gushed out like a wild cataract! She became the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at 16. At 19, while at Harvard college, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate.

FLOTUS, Dr. Jill Biden suggested her name after hearing Amanda Gorman’s spoken word poetry at the Library of  Congress. In late December she was shortlisted to perform at the 2021 Presidential inauguration. “America United” was the theme offered by the then-incoming POTUS, Joseph R. Biden. Our nation was reeling under the COVID pandemic, economic disparity, systemic racism, and misinformation.

This call to action resonated with the heart of the young activist poet. She set to work! Gorman crafted inspirational words not to nullify or erase the harsh truths of our nation’s memory but to encourage the country to come together.  

“When the day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

On the day that Senator Kamala Harris became the first Bi-racial woman to become the Vice President of America, Gorman’s words rang true!

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.” 

On this historic day of January 20th, 2021, her words echoed in the hearts of millions of Americans.

“We will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country. Our diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.“

Gorman  gleaned the spoken and written words that tattooed the news, after the horrendous insurrection of 1/6/21 and edited her poem to cry out immortal words:

“When the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” How can we forget this day? How can we forget these words? “But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.”

Gorman’s first poetry collection including the inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb”, will be published by Viking Books. She has talent. She has fortitude. She has a personality. She may not be Robert Frost or Maya Angelou but she is just 22! 

Her beautiful words brought a surge of patriotic emotion to my heart, just like when I hear poems like Vande Mataram by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. I hope she can inspire young writers to walk in her words. It would be an honor to breathe the air she is breathing.

Monita Soni has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, and the other in her birth home India. Writing is a contemplative practice for her. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books: My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

Radiologist by Day, Poet Laureate by Night

Ohio-based novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist Amit Majmudar has served as Ohio’s first Poet Laureate. In a candid chat, he talks to us, among other things, about his latest book ‘Soar’, how he juggles multiple roles, his fourth poetry collection that is forthcoming in the US, and his favorite Indian American authors and poets.

A diagnostic nuclear radiologist, poet, novelist, and essayist, you were also the first Poet Laureate of Ohio. Tell us how you balance all these different personas.

It’s really just a question of time management. When the shift starts, I’m a radiologist. When the shift ends, I’m a dad. When I can sneak away or when everyone’s asleep, I’m a writer. As for the different kinds of writing, I regard them all as ways of sequencing words. You can accomplish some things with poetry that you can’t with fiction, some things with fiction that you can’t with an essay, and so on. I pick my form based on the effect I wish to have.

Your latest novel ‘Soar’ is about the friendship between a Hindu and Muslim soldier in the British Indian Army during World War I. How did you come up with the story?

I wrote it so long ago—2010, in fact—that I can scarcely recall the specific genesis of the story anymore. I have always been a World War I buff, and I remember the first time I read about Indian colonial soldiers being sent to theaters of war in places like Europe or Africa. How strange it all must have seemed to them! What innocents abroad they were! And yet sent there to shoot and be shot at; there to have their innocence stripped from them. That was probably the starting point for the novel.

Your earlier book ‘Partitions‘ is also about communal differences and harmonies. Is this a theme that you are particularly fond of?

‘Soar’ came immediately after ‘Partitions.’ They treat a similar topic in drastically different ways—one dark and tragic, the other light and tragicomic. I am very interested in the difference between person-to-person friendship and love; and the diametrically opposite group dynamics that can co-exist beside and behind that relationship. That contrast is the basis of so much in literature, going all the way back to Romeo and Juliet. Trust is built easier on the micro-level, person to person, than on the macro-level, group to group.  

Your book ‘Sitayana‘, a retelling of the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective, focuses on Sita’s fierce resistance. How did you come up with the idea for the book?

The story is well known, but the kernel of the idea was to write the Ramayana epic in many different voices. So, it’s not just Sita’s perspective; her voice is central, but it is one of many. ‘Sitayana’ was a challenge of storytelling architecture that I set myself. From chapter to chapter, I jump, Hanuman-like, from perspective to perspective. Yet the book as a whole maintains a single, rapid, forward momentum.

Tell our readers more about your fourth poetry collection that is forthcoming in the US, ‘What He Did in Solitary’ (Knopf, 2020).

I write in a lot of styles and themes, and that book collects a large portion of my work written between ‘Dothead’ and now. There are poems about identity, love, loss, communal violence, politics, and the solitary nature of being. Everything under the sun.

Who are some of your favorite Indian American authors and poets?

I have one favorite Indian American author, and that is my wife, A. B. Majmudar. Her debut novel is coming out from Puffin Books India. It’s called ‘The Torchbearers’, and it’s a YA novel that’s an action-packed mythological romp that involves three kids (based on our own three kids) as well as Gods and Demons. It’s an astonishing story, but the back story is astonishing too: She had never written fiction before, submitted her first completed draft without an agent, and got a book deal on her first try. The book really is that good; she’s like an Indian-American J. K. Rowling. Between us, she is soon going to be the famous one, and I look forward to standing in her shadow!

What are your creative inspirations?

Other writers, usually dead ones. I am stirred to create my own work in the spirit of emulation and competition, yes, but above all, I am stirred by the ways in which other writers show me what can be done with the language. Shakespeare, Cormac McCarthy, Borges, Hilary Mantel, Ovid—countless others. Everything I read and love inspires me in some way.

What are you working on next?

I have a lot of works planned, and a few new books already completed and currently submitted to publishers. But I’m very superstitious, so I won’t be too specific—I want to avoid jinxing my chances. But I am always working on poems, even when I’m not physically writing them; that work is always ongoing. Language possesses infinite generativity, and I try to take advantage of that in the finite time I have. 

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.