Maybe Poetry Can Save Us

Today was a good day. Donald Trump is no longer my president. The inauguration went off without violence. Kamala Harris was sworn in as my country’s first female Vice-President and Joe Biden as President. Biden delivered the kind of aspirational, affirming speech that leaders should deliver in times of crises.

There is no shortage of crises. 400,000 Americans have died from COVID, a number certain to climb as winter deepens. An economic recession has tossed millions out of work and out of their homes. Our democracy survived a stupid but blatant insurrection that killed five people with the intent of killing many more. White supremacists have openly committed themselves to ongoing campaigns of violence against local, state and federal government. And cries for racial justice, some 400 years unheeded, have still not been adequately addressed.

And yet, there is hope. There is hope that a change in rhetoric can inspire more of us to heal than to hurt. There is hope that the unfinished project of American democracy can continue and has not been forgotten or abandoned.

So many moments today in which to take hope. For me, none was greater than when 22 year old Amanda Gorman delivered her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, a call to action to continue building our unfinished country. Well-written. Incredibly well-delivered. Poets often can’t properly read their own poems. Amanda Gorman delivered hers, and the nation picked it up. So many people today, like me, inspired and struck by a poem heard. My own daughter, 13 years old, heard those words and marveled. She didn’t know poetry could do that. I knew but had forgotten.

Today a poem held our attention and brought us back to ourselves. Today I was reminded: poetry is a tool which which we can remake our lives.