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Mar 22

Listening at the Library of Congress

Posted on March 22, 2022 at 10:15 AM by Tracey Boswell

What is the largest library in the world?       The Library of Congress! 

The Library of Congress preserves and provides access to millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps, manuscripts, and artifacts. It is the main research facility of the U.S. Congress and is open to all users. The Library of Congress is in Washington DC. How can we use it from Kansas? We can listen! Today’s essay features a recorded performance of the spoken word.Amanda Gorman reads at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration 

When young Amanda Gorman read her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at the inauguration of President Biden in January 2021, national attention was turned to the power of words through poetry. The poem encourages Americans to be proud of their country and work for its improvement. 

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

a selection of "The Hill We Climb" by Amanda Gorman


Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate and Harvard graduate, had already established her role as a poet and activist. She uses the spoken word to highlight themes of feminism, race, oppression, and marginalization. She is not the first to do this.

In the 1970s, another poet was using the power of her words to address significant causes and events in her life and the world around her.  Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a New York public school librarian who described herself as black, lesbian, a mother, a warrior, and a poet.Image of a black woman

Audra Lorde


Like Gorman's, Lorde’s works also address the issues of feminism, race, oppression, and marginalization. When she learned that a white police officer had been acquitted in the shooting death of a ten-year-old black boy, Lorde responded in words, writing her poem “Power.” Through its digital audio collections, the Library of Congress has preserved Lourde reading that poem. You can listen here. 

I have not been able to touch the destruction within me.

But unless I learn to use

the difference between poetry and rhetoric

my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold

or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire

a selection from "Power" by Audra Lorde

The Library of Congress has recognized the poet Audra Lorde with a brief biography, audio recordings,  and other information. Her full biography, Warrior Poet: a Biography of Audra Lourde by Alexis De Veaux, is available through interlibrary loan at your local public library.

Warrior Poet book cover

Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” is available at the State Library of Kansas, in print or audiobook.