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Poet Amanda Gorman reflects on a tough week for America

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It has been one week since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Americans reacted in all sorts of ways, from hugging their kids a little tighter to hitting the streets to protest.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

While many struggle to find the right words, that is the job of our next guest.

AMANDA GORMAN: My name is Amanda Gorman. I'm 24 years old, and I'm a poet.

KELLY: After the Buffalo shooting at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood, Gorman started to share lines from a previously published poem on social media. Her call to action was to send money to Everytown for Gun Safety. She's raised over a million dollars so far.

CHANG: But she's also been working on a new poem, one grounded in hope.

GORMAN: I think in moments like this, I am hopeful, but I'm actually more stubborn than hopeful, meaning that I'm bringing my obstinance, my strong will, my beating heart. I know there are forces in this world which would revel and celebrate and throw a party for my powerlessness, and they win unless I continue to show up every day and do what I know to be right.

CHANG: Here is Amanda Gorman's new poem, "Hymn For The Hurting."

GORMAN: (Reading) Everything hurts - our hearts shadowed and strange, minds made muddied and mute. We carry tragedy, terrifying and true. And yet none of it is new. We knew it as home, as horror, as heritage. Even our children cannot be children, cannot be. Everything hurts. It's a hard time to be alive, and even harder to stay that way. We're burdened to live out these days while at the same time blessed to outlive them. This alarm is how we know we must be altered - that we must differ or die, that we must triumph or try. Thus, while hate cannot be terminated, it can be transformed into a love that lets us live. May we not just grieve, but give. May we not just ache, but act. May our signed right to bear arms never blind our sight from shared harm. May we choose our children over chaos. May another innocent never be lost. Maybe everything hurts - our hearts shadowed and strange. But only when everything hurts, may everything change.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: For more of Gorman's poetry, be sure to listen to the next Code Switch episode available tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gus Contreras
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.