Sunday, May 16, 2021

White Poet Pulls Out of Translating Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Poem Amid Criticism

*Dutch poet Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has pulled out of transcribing/translating Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb” for a Dutch poetry collection after criticism that it would be inappropriate for a white person to do so.  

Rijneveld, the youngest author to win the International Booker Prize for the novel, “The Discomfort of Evening,” decided to step down from the role on Friday. 

Rijneveld said in a Twitter statement: “I’m shocked by the uproar around my involvement in the dissemination of Amanda Gorman’s message, and I understand people who feel hurt by the choice.”

Dutch cultural activist and journalist Janice Deul wrote in the newspaper de Volkskrant: “Not to take anything away from Rijneveld’s qualities, but why not chose a writer who is – just like Gorman – spoken word artist, young, female and unapologetically Black.”

READ MORE: Amanda Gorman Covers Time’s ‘Black Renaissance’ Issue + A Conversation with Michelle Obama

Gorman delivered a passionate reading of her poem “The Hill We Climb,” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden — making the 22-year-old the youngest ever inaugural poet.

Almost immediately after her televised appearance, Gorman’s two books — “Change Sings” and “The Hill We Climb” — took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on Amazon’s bestseller list, and they don’t hit shelves until September, per Deadline.

“The Hill We Climb” is Gorman’s debut collection of poetry.

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is hours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished,” Gorman recited at the inauguration in January. “So, while once we asked, ‘how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’, now we assert, ‘how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’ We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation.”

After her performance, Oprah Winfrey tweeted, “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.” Oprah also gifted the poet a caged bird ring to honor Angelou. 

Gorman responded, “Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in. While reciting my poem, I wore a ring with a caged bird—a gift from @Oprah for the occasion, to symbolize Maya Angelou, a previous inaugural poet. Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”

The Dutch translation of her poem was to be published on March 20 by the Amsterdam-based publisher, Meulenhoff, AP reports.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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