Levine: Art of healing

Photo by Patrick Semansky of The Associated Press, Pool / American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Of all the inauguration speakers, the one who hypnotized me was Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate. The young powerhouse joins the roster of famous inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. Reading "The Hill We Climb," she had us all climbing with her. It was a joy to see her energy, hear her inspiring verses and be reminded that poetry heals the soul.

The words bring optimism about the future. A colleague messaged, "The seed of hope has been planted. It is up to each of us to build upon that hope in order to cultivate and strengthen the ties that bind us together as a People - one Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all!"

Unity is an admirable aspiration, though calls for unity are already fading as divisiveness reasserts itself. But the artists among us have the power to push us to act on the hope that's been raised. As Gorman told The New York Times, "What I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal. It's doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with."

Gorman wasn't the only artist to bring folks together. Lady Gaga sang the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez gave a great rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This land is Your Land, This Land is my Land." But most noteworthy, and somewhat unexpectedly, was country singer Garth Brooks. Despite fellow Trump supporters expressing anger that he performed for the inaugural crowd, Brooks truly demonstrated "Amazing Grace."

American creative souls have always brought us together in difficult times. Even in wartime, there were songs like "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile" and, of course, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boys".

Calling all artists! We've just experienced a war-like moment in our Capitol. Bring on the songs and poems!

Let's hear the theme of unity echo around the country. Even better, focus your words on harmony instead. Share how we can have a diversity of perspectives and party affiliations, but can still join together in poems and songs. Your words can inspire our highest selves, even as they reflect today's unprecedented challenges. I like to call this "harmonize not homogenize."

I was delighted that my cousin, a Hollywood composer and producer, created a new song with his diverse team called "Happy ReNew Year:" "Too many dreams got tossed, too many people got lost, isn't it time we find our way back home?"

Whether it's John Denver's "Take me Home Country Road" or Anton Dvorak's "Going Home," the words of hope and the music of home awaken the longing nestled deep inside us. That longing can inspire and motivate, giving us the courage to turn hope into unifying action.

What better way to spread that hope than to nurture young artists like Gorman to become the inspirational wordsmiths of the future. That's what this coming year needs. Poets are already a "thing" and even won the popular TV show, America's Got Talent. Let's give them the platform, funding and encouragement to change our mindset for years to come.

If you're a poet and don't know it, give it a try. But whoever you are, I bet you can sing in harmony, even if you can't carry a tune. Let's create a ReNew Year together and make it go viral.

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.