Amanda Gorman will bring poetry—and politics—to the Super Bowl

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Jill Biden takes on family separation, Nasdaq’s CEO weighs in on the GameStop situation, and Amanda Gorman will appear at the Super Bowl. Have a terrific Thursday.

– A star is born. The Internet very rarely agrees on anything. But during President Biden’s inauguration last week, the digital hive mind did seem to find one point of consensus: Amanda Gorman is a star.

So, it’s anything but a shock that we’re going to be seeing a lot more of the 22-year-old who recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” on that chilly January morning. This week, we learned that IMG Models will now represent Gorman for those sure-to-emerge fashion and beauty endorsements. Her debut poetry volume is expected in September, her first picture book is on the way, and she has several other literary projects cooking. And, oh yes, she will also be performing at the Super Bowl.

I personally have mixed feelings about that particular event—the NFL’s handling of issues like racism, police violence, and domestic violence have been ham-fisted at best. But there’s no ignoring the primacy it holds in American culture (more than 100 million people watched last year!). Gorman will be reciting a new poem written for the moment, though we know it will “recognize an educator, a nurse, and a veteran for helping their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.” 

She is—surprise!—the first-ever poet to perform at the big game. Her performance at the inauguration proved that poetry deserves a place in popular culture, and I have no doubt she’ll win new fans for the art form with this showcase. But even more than the medium itself, it’s the message I’m excited to hear. Gorman has said that she “has to interweave my poetry with purpose.” Her poems probe American history, as well as our current reality, and confront issues of race, gender, economic inequalities and other weighty and complicated topics rarely supported by ads for light beer.

It’s a big step forward for an event that has previously seemed utterly unprepared to handle even oblique references to race and politics. (Remember the drama over Beyoncé’s Black Panthers-inspired performance?) To have that step taken by a young, spectacularly talented Black woman like Gorman is an inspiration—and a suggestion that even the most entrenched aspects of our culture can, ever so gradually, change.

 

Kristen Bellstrom
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com
@
kayelbee

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

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