A send-off to 2021 and guidance for a new year, poet Amanda Gorman’s last work of the year is both a validation of the country’s trauma and a path for the future.
The poem, titled New Day’s Lyric, was released on Wednesday via Instagram, alongside a video of Gorman reciting the poem. At just five stanzas and 48 lines long, it manages to sum up the whirlwind year of disappointment, learning, and grief.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Gorman explained that she wanted to write a piece that embodied those complicated feelings of 2021 but ultimately emphasized hope and healing. “This is such a unique New Year’s Day, because even as we toast our glasses to the future, we still have our heads bowed for what has been lost,” she told the Associated Press. “I think one of the most important things the new year reminds us is of that old adage: This too shall pass. You can’t relive the same day twice…”
The poem’s social media release was a collaboration between Gorman and Instagram. In a follow-up post on Gorman’s account, the poet explained that the debut was part of a fundraising campaign for the International Rescue Committee, an international humanitarian nonprofit. Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has already pledged $50,000.
In an interview with Vanity Fair before the release, Gorman said that she wanted to partner with the social media company as a reflection of her own experiences over the last year, reconciling with intense social and environmental change and the accompanying narratives “we interact or meet with on social media.”
While the past few years may seem filled with fractures along political, environmental, and social lines, the poem’s leading stanzas begin with a request for us all to come together:
May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.
The last stanza reworks the message of the New Year’s classic, “Auld Lang Syne” — a song about nostalgia and remembering the past fondly — into a new message for all Americans:
We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgot nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.
Gorman, now 23, was the first youth poet laureate and youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, taking on the former role at just 19. Her outlook on a new year reflects both a youthful optimism and a somber acknowledgement of the pain, grief, and anxiety that’s filled 2021. While Instagram continues to defend itself against evidence that the company has knowingly caused immense damage to young users, the generation most affected is still using the app to rally community and make a difference where possible, especially as we head into the new year.