Poems and Politics (Issue 89)

Pennine Platform

Jonathan Van-Tam has a way with metaphors. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer’s clear football analogies for tackling Covid-19 are a refreshing change from the war imagery rife elsewhere. Equally refreshing is Amanda Gorman’s choice of a topographical image for ‘The Hill We Climb’: her five-minute poem for the 46th US President’s Inauguration. For most UK viewers Gorman burst onto our screens a fully-formed 22-year-old poet laureate. Brought up by a single mother, her personal hill included childhood speech and hearing impediments, but ‘If I choose not to speak out of fear,’ she told students in a 2019 TED talk, ‘then there is no one that my silence is standing for.’

It is a brave poet who writes a five-minute poem, let alone performs it on a palpably tense world stage. This she did, to 33.8 million people – many no doubt averse to poetry if not to the speaker herself…

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