Poet Amanda Gorman opened up about why she considered not performing at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In an op-ed published by The New York Times, Gorman wrote, “The truth is I almost declined to be the inaugural poet. Why? I was terrified.”
She continued, “I was scared of failing my people, my poetry. But I was also terrified on a physical level. Covid was still raging, and my age group couldn’t get vaccinated yet. Just a few weeks before, domestic terrorists assaulted the U.S. Capitol, the very steps where I would recite.”
Gorman acknowledged she would become “highly visible” at the inauguration, adding, “Which is a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you’re Black and outspoken and have no Secret Service.”
The poet explained she had “insomnia and nightmares, barely ate or drank for days.”
She asked herself, “Was this poem worth it?”
Gorman went on, “The night before I was to give the Inaugural Committee my final decision felt like the longest of my life.”
She suggested, “Maybe being brave enough doesn’t mean lessening my fear, but listening to it.”
In her op-ed, Gorman reflected on her experience the morning of the inauguration.
“Though I spent the next hour shivering in my seat from nerves and the unforgiving January cold, as I stepped up to the dais to recite, I felt warm, like the words waiting in my mouth were aflame. It seemed that the world stood still. I looked out and spoke to it. I haven’t looked back,” Gorman wrote.
Concluding her op-ed, Gorman admitted she is still “terrified every day.”
“Yet fear can be love trying its best in the dark. So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it. This isn’t a liberation that I or anyone can give you — it’s a power you must look for, learn, love, lead and locate for yourself,” she said.
During her performance at Biden’s inauguration, Gorman touched on themes including healing and hope for the country.
“We must end this uncivil war,” Gorman said, “We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.”