National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman made poetry cool again at President Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, and she's become the star of the moment. That means she now gets to be on The Late Late Show with James Corden, her "favorite human being ever created," where she explained how she landed the gig in the first place.
"I'm very fortunate in that Dr. Biden, First Lady now, saw a poem that I recited at the Library of Congress in which I wore yellow, and she just really loved my performance. So it turns out that I ended up being her first choice for an inaugural poet," Gorman explained. "I just felt personally I had a very small chance of getting the opportunity because I was like 'I'm 22 and I've overcome a speech impediment. Who would want me on stage?' And then they zoom-called me, offered me the opportunity, and I danced around in my socks like a crazy person."
The experience from her perspective was unique. "This is something to say as a poet. It was, I think, one of those moments in my life that was beyond words, and that's saying something for me. I'm looking out... for me, I'm the descendant of a slave who's also named Amanda, so looking out and seeing the Lincoln Memorial, looking out and seeing the Washington Monument, seeing the flags laid in remembrance of those lost to COVID, it's a breathtaking moment. On the other hand, you have the human anxieties like 'I'm cold,' and 'I know Biden is right behind me, how does my hair look?' 'My nose is sniffling.' 'Don't trip. Don't mess up.' And so you kind of have to let go of all of that and let yourself be the vessel for the poem."
Then she veered off to gush about Corden again. "Growing up in LA, me and my sister used to always take the bus to the Grove on weekends, and we would always pass by CBS when your show was filming, and we'd put our faces to the little iron gate amd be like 'James Corden is inside! Maybe we should sneak in and say hi!' And we never did because we didn't want to be those two black girls who got arrested trying to sneak in to give you a hug. So this is really a full-circle moment for me."
She also spoke of the weight of performing at the U.S. Capitol, which had just been defiled by the insurrection. "Here is basically a chapel that has been violated, and the way in which we bring that sagacity, that type of sacredness back to the space is in our actions and in our words, and words is where I operate and where I can make magic happen. So it was moreso my calling of using my hymn to try to repurify that space."
Corden gushed about her as well. "You're so impressive. You're so impressive! I don't think you understand, just talking to you know, the volume of hope I feel you are giving to so many people. I really really mean that."
Gorman bounced seemingly effortlessly between high-minded thought and being a normal young adult, especially when talking about hobnobbing with the esteemed figures after the ceremony. "It's really strange, because you're all just at the platform, and you're like 'oh, we're not gonna talk about the fact that Barack Obama is right there? Like, am I not about to go snap a photo with Michelle Obama?' So it was basically me being like 'well, I guess we're here, Lady Gaga!' and making a bee-line for her. We were both crying and both weeping and she was so sweet. I can't speak to other inaugurations, but despite the 6-feet distance and the mask, I want to say there was a higher intimacy in this one, where I had Barack Obama standing next to me and being like 'you made us proud, you did a good job' in his characteristic voice. It was great. I didn't want to leave, but then Secret Service was like 'no, really, you gotta go.'"
Corden gushed again, bringing it back to her now-famous poem and her implication that she has a dream of becoming president herself one day. "I genuinely feel like there's a very real world where there's a poet speaking at your inauguration day when you're the president of the United States. I'm not joking... is that something you'd want to do?"
"Oh heck yeah," Gorman replied, matter-of-factly. "Plannin' on it."
The Late Late Show with James Corden airs weeknights at 12:35 PM ET on CBS.
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Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.