It is no overstatement to say that on an Inauguration Day filled with memorable moments, 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman’s poetry reading was definitely one of the most lasting. Her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” echoed President Joe Biden’s address and brought optimism to a country bruised by four years of Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric and chaotic management style, not to mention a Capitol that had been invaded by dangerously hubristic Trump followers just two weeks earlier.
While it’s not uncommon for poetry to be set to music after the fact, it was nonetheless a surprise to hear Gorman’s poem accompanied by smooth electronic music on the Seattle radio station KEXP on Wednesday, just a couple of hours after she delivered it.
The ad-hoc song, which found longtime station DJ Cheryl Waters simply playing a recording of Gorman’s poem over a song called “Zion” by Seattle funk-rock ensemble Polyrhythmics, was both energizing and soothing, and suited the message of the inspiring words without being inflammatory. Listeners were initially confused about the music because the two recordings are listed separately on the playlist on the station’s website.
While Waters declined to comment specifically about her inspiration for combining the two recordings, and it’s not available as an official recording, she did not that listeners can hear the song for the next two weeks in KEXP’s streaming archive on the free mobile app or at:
https://www.kexp.org/archive/, by entering the date and time, which is:: 1/20/21 at 12pm.
“When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid,” the poem concludes.
“The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light.
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
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