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Poet and activist Amanda Gorman on the power of the arts in crisis

The Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the United States talks to KATIE BERRINGTON about how she’s spending her days during lockdown, the impact of the pandemic on creative industries and where she is looking for hope and inspiration


Amanda Gorman on finding a new routine

I began this lockdown thinking I was going to be far more productive, but I’ve found that being at home doesn’t automatically translate into productivity. I think the emotional labor that we’re all going through takes up time and energy. But one of the best remedies I know for apathy and lethargy is time management and connection. I wake up earlier than I normally would, so I can give myself time to meditate and set a positive intention for the day. I start with what energizes and excites me – whether that’s writing a book chapter that I’m pumped about, or a poem that calms me. I exercise once a day, either running or yoga. I just discovered the Houseparty app and am calling up loved ones who I haven’t spoken to in too long. And, most of all, every day I try to think of how I can pay this moment forward, whether that’s donating to or sharing a cause, or just putting more love and light into the world.

On how lockdown is impacting her craft and sense of creativity

I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by what’s going on that I think whatever I write is meek in the face of such darkness. That’s when I know it’s time to turn off the news and start looking for the creators. There’s a saying going around, to “look for the helpers”, which I definitely believe in. I would also encourage everyone to look for the creators, artists and storytellers who are taking shadow and weaving it into daylight. They give me strength and courage; they reveal beauty and humanity. Now, more than ever, I’m thinking of my craft as a type of creative labor to participate in that campaign of camaraderie.

On where she is finding hope, positivity and inspiration

The writer Glennon Doyle has some heart-warming, mind-awakening content on her Instagram that I drink up. I believe that there is far more good news in the world than bad (even if the former isn’t reported on enough), and so I’ve enjoyed actor John Krasinski’s new YouTube channel, Some Good News. I’ve also started a new ritual – whenever I run, I see other people doing the same. Now I challenge myself to wave frantically at everyone I pass, even if I am 10 feet away. They wave back and, even though we’re both wearing face masks, I can tell we’re smiling. It’s my little way of staying connected and receptive, even while practicing physical distancing.

On how she is filling her time

I’ve started exercising, which I’m embarrassed to say has always been really hard for me. I haven’t joined the Instagram wave of baking bread, but we’ll see… I spend part of each day ‘memory scavenger hunting’, which is just a fancy way of saying ‘organizing’. I have so many things in my home; some I don’t know are there because they’re buried under Lord knows what. I give myself time each day to clean up and organize, and let myself relive memories and treasure items, even if I end up recycling them or finding a new use. I’m also taking this time to read up on all the bad-ass feminists I was never taught enough about. Audre Lorde is taking up a large spot on my bookshelf at the moment.

On offering support to the creative industries

The public-health crisis has been incredibly difficult for independent bookstores across the country. These booksellers are at the heart of our neighborhoods; they’re custodians of knowledge, literature and community. There is a great project called Save Indie Bookstores, which is working to keep them on their feet, even while their doors are closed. If you can’t donate to them, sharing the word is still a huge help. A lot of industries are receiving attention at this time, which I totally understand, but it’s important that we celebrate our amazing booksellers as well.

On the power of the arts in times of crisis

I truly believe the arts remind us of the best of human beings. They battle with the human condition, and now we are collectively living in a strikingly unique human condition, which the arts are recording, revealing and revolting against. The arts remind us of who we are at our core. That’s why there’s a poem, and not a dossier, at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty declaring: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” At a time when the wind is blowing, arts remind us why we stand sturdy.