Amanda Gorman

‘Earthrise’ by Amanda Gorman is a powerful contemporary poem about climate change, the Apollo 8 mission to the moon, and the future of the Earth.


Amanda Gorman

Nationality: American

Amanda Gorman is known around the world for her highly relevant contemporary verse.

Notable works include 'Chorus of the Captainsand 'The Hill We Climb.'

The poet hoped to inspire readers from all walks of life to make change in their everyday lives with this poem

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This well-known Gorman poem was composed for The Climate Reality Project in 2018 and passionately declares that change for the better has to come quickly, or humanity may lose its home. ‘Earthrise’ is filled with references to American history, particularly a famous speech by President John F. Kennedy about the Apollo moon missions. 

Earthrise by Amanda Gorman


‘Earthrise’ by Amanda Gorman is a powerful and inspirational poem about the climate crisis. 

The poem begins with the poet referencing a famous photo called Earthrise that was taken on the Apollo 8 mission to circle the moon. The photo inspired generations, and she continually refers back to it as a source of inspiration for young people hoping to stop the progression of climate change. 

The poet uses most of the text to outline the issues facing humanity, how large and pressing those issues are, and the widespread change that needs to happen in order to make the world a better place. The poem ends with one of Gorman’s characteristic addresses to those listening to or reading her verse to seek out opportunities to change the world for the better. One doesn’t need to be a politician in order to create change. 

Structure and Form 

‘Earthrise’ by Amanda Gorman is a fifteen-stanza poem that is divided into uneven sets of lines. The first contains three, the second: six, and the rest range from one up to nineteen. The final stanza of the poem is the longest at nineteen lines. 

The poet chose to use a few different rhyme schemes in her poem. The second stanza, for example, rhymes in a pattern of ABAACA, whereas the fourth stanza is quite different, rhyming AAAAB. She changes the pattern throughout the poem, always ensuring that the stanzas have lines that correspond in a rhythmic way. 

Literary Devices 

In ‘Earthrise,’ the poet makes use of a few different literary devices. These include: 

  • Allusion: this is one of Gorman’s strongest literary devices. It’s seen every time she mentions something that’s outside the poem’s direct context or which is not entirely explained. For example, her reference to the Earthrise photo taken in 1968.
  • Alliteration: alliteration is another literary device that Gorman uses on a regular basis. For example, “silver skies” and “declared done.” These examples show the rhythmic power of repeating consonant sounds. 
  • Enjambment: a literary device that can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping poem, moving the poem along at a quickening pace. For example, the transition between lines one and two of stanza one and lines one and two of stanza three. 
  • Apostrophe: an address to something or someone that cannot hear or understand what’s being said. For example, the poet addresses Earth near the end of the poem, saying that humanity would not fail the planet. 

Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One 

On Christmas Eve, 1968, astronaut Bill Anders
Snapped a photo of the earth
As Apollo 8 orbited the moon.
Those three guys
Were surprised
To see from their eyes
Our planet looked like an earthrise
A blue orb hovering over the moon’s gray horizon,
with deep oceans and silver skies

In the first stanza of ‘Earthrise,’ the poet begins by referring to a very specific moment in the history of space travel. The poet writes about a photo Bill Anders took of Earth while part of the Apollo 8 mission. The crew was making history, circling the moon for the first time in human history. This famous photo is titled Earthrise, and Gorman clearly looked to it for inspiration. The photo is famously credited with inspiring numerous scientists and armchair astronomers.

The poet uses very simple words in these lines and short direct phrases. The lines as they lack emotion or detail and are direct descriptions of an event. One word in the three lines that should attract the reader’s interest is “snapped.” By using it, the poet suggests that when Anders took the photo, he did so without much thought, not realizing how iconic it would become in the years to come. 

Stanza Two 

Those three guys
with deep oceans and silver skies.

The poet describes the reaction of the three-man crew in the next lines. They saw the Earth in a way that one would normally expect to see the moon or the sun. It was an “earth rise,” a new phenomenon that captivated the world. The poet describes the earth in lyrical detail in the next lines, referring to it as a “blue orb hovering over the moon’s gray horizon” and speaking of its “deep oceans and silver skies.” 

Clearly, the poet hoped to evoke the same feelings of wonder for Earth and space that the photo itself evokes. She uses these lines in an attempt to describe the photo for those who haven’t seen it. 

Stanza Three

It was our world’s first glance at itself
A declared stance and a commonality;

When this photo was shared with the public, it was such an instant hit due to the fact that it was the world’s first chance to see itself. Never had the Earth been viewed from such a distant and clear perspective. The world was unified in a brief, instant appreciation for the planet and our “shared reality,” Gorman indicates. It brought the world together, in a way, by its unifying commonality. Everyone looking at the photo was on that same blue and silver ball. 

These lines allude to something that Gorman often imbues her poems with— a hope for a better future in which all of humanity is unified in a common goal to make the world a better, fairer, and more beautiful place. 

Stanza Four

A glimpse into our planet’s mirror,
than this floating body we all call home.

The photo (and, in turn, the poem itself) offered the world a glance at itself. It was a mirror of the world and the threats that were drawing closer. Here, Gorman clearly alludes to the climate crisis for the first time. The photo, she believes, helped many people understand how alone humanity was and how, if we didn’t solve our own problems, we might lose the world we so depend on. 

The poet uses a metaphor in the next line, referring to the Earth as a “floating body” that “we all call home.” This is also an example of personification that alludes to the living and changing nature of the Earth. 

Stanza Five 

We’ve known
Still suffer more than anyone.

The fifth stanza gets at the poet’s intentions—discussing climate change and the people who it will impact the most. She writes about the various approaches to climate change in this stanza, mentioning that some believe it will just “go away” and others want to survive a day at a time. The poet is well-aware, as the reader likely is, that many people do not share her sense of urgency on the matter. 

She makes sure to mention in this stanza that there is a specific group of people who are going to suffer more than anyone—the poor. The “obscure, the oppressed, the poor” are far more likely to struggle as climate change worsens than any other group. This is partially why the poet alludes to the better-off members of society as more willing to ignore the foreboding signs; they have the means to save themselves and those they love by moving, investing in better housing, and more. 

Stanzas Six and Seven

Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our time,

Of this, you’re certainly aware.
It’s getting the facts straight that gets us to act and not to wait.

The sixth stanza is only one line long and alludes to a quote by Thomas F. Stocker, the co-chair of the IPCC, that he said in 2013. He stated that climate change is the “greatest challenge of our time.” Gorman repeats this quote nearly word for word, reemphasizing within the context of her poem how world-changing climate change is going to be. She isolated this line in order to ensure readers remember it. The line is also the main topic of the entire poem, something that becomes clear in the following lines.

The following stanza is short, stating that it’s important not to wait to take action and that now, as most people are “aware,” is the time to act. Despite the fact that almost everyone knows the state the world is in (and could be in as the years pass), there are not enough people who think about it and contend with it on a regular basis.

Stanza Eight 

So I tell you this not to scare you,
To dream a different reality,

The eighth stanza is a tercet and is addressed to the reader. For the first time, the poet uses a second-person perspective. She tells the reader that information about the future of humanity and planet Earth isn’t shared in order to “scare” the public. She wants to talk about this topic so that “you” can prepare and imagine a “different reality” in which the world’s people do not suffer the fate scientists believe is coming for them. 

One of the literary devices that Gorman is best known for, alliteration, plays an important role in this stanza. She connects the words “dream” and “different” in line three of stanza eight, creating an example of alliteration that drives her message home. 

Stanza Nine 

Where despite disparities
To give next generations the planet they deserve.

The ninth stanza also uses alliteration with “despite disparities” in line one and consonance in line four with “verve” and “nerve.” The poet notes in these lines (which pick up speed due to her use of enjambment) that people might have different beliefs about the future, but everyone is on Earth, or as she writes on the “riddle blue marble” that is the planet. Everyone needs to, she adds, “muster” the “nerve” to make a change. 

Here, readers might consider the ways that they, as everyday citizens of Earth, can make a difference. Gorman states that one doesn’t have to be a “politician” to make a change. It’s a simple thing to dedicate oneself to changing the Earth in their day-to-day life. One can work to “preserve that one and only home” that belongs to all of us. By doing so, one can ensure that the planet lasts for the next generation and the generation after that. 

Stanzas Ten and Eleven

We are demonstrating, creating, advocating
With the future of our youth.

The tenth stanza is another short, one-line stanza, and the following eleventh stanza is a couplet, meaning it’s two lines long. The poet begins speaking from a third-person perspective, writing that “We,” or all those advocating for the planet, are doing what they can to make the inconvenient truth (alluding to the fact that many people don’t want to believe it out of convenience) of climate change understanding. 

There is no room for negotiation as she indicates with the lines “because we need to be anything but lenient / With the future of our youth.” There is no room for interpretation when it comes to climate change. The future of the human race is in the balance, and the poet believes that when one fully considers this, it’s very clear that something has to be done. 

Stanza Twelve 

And while this is a training,
Should be anything but controversial.

The poet uses a few different literary devices like repetition and anaphora in stanza twelve, writing that “Now / Now / Now” is the time to change. There is no time to fret, worry, and negotiate. The poet’s frustration regarding the “controversy” of climate change comes through very clearly in these lines. She’s tapping into a commonly held belief that humanity has gone far too long without implementing real change in an effort to fight climate change.

Stanza Thirteen

So, earth, pale blue dot

The thirteenth stanza is another couplet. The poet uses the short thirteenth stanza in order to create an example of an apostrophe. She addresses the Earth, telling the planet that “We will fail you not” (the unusual syntax here was used in order to rhyme “dot” with “not”). This address to the Earth stands out among the other stanzas in that Gorman breaks her discussion with the reader before returning to depictions of what needs to happen in the future in the next stanza. 

Stanza Fourteen 

Just as we chose to go to the moon
Because with every dawn we carry
the weight of the fate of this celestial body orbiting a star.
Is simply another form of an earthrise.

The second to last stanza alludes to the power of human will. When humanity decides to do something, like go to the moon, they can accomplish it. It takes money, time, and resources, but if humankind is determined enough, they can do anything. The phrase “We choose to go to the Moon” is a well-known one. It comes from a speech delivered by John F. Kennedy on September 12th, 1962. It was meant to suggest that humanity can do anything it sets its mind to. We “choose to go to the moon,” and therefore, we’re going to the moon, Kennedy was hoping to convey. 

In the following lines, the poet also writes about how just like humanity chose to go to the moon, so too can they choose “hope” and choose to save planet Earth. If we “refuse to lose,” then we won’t. The poet also alludes to another line from the same President Kennedy speech. She writes, “Not because it’s very easy or nice / But because it is necessary.” 

Rather than discussing traveling through space, though, she’s indicating that saving the planet is going to be hard but is a necessary thing for humanity’s survival. 

In the final lines of this stanza, the poet compares an uprising of support for climate policy to the Earthrise photo. She says that the latter is just another version of an “earthrise” and can, therefore, inspire the world, en masse, to rise up and demand change. 

Stanza Fifteen

To see it, close your eyes.
of us changemakers are in a spacecraft,
To keep rising up for an earth more than worth fighting for.

The final stanza of ‘Earthrise‘ is the longest at nineteen lines. The poet asks readers to close their eyes and visualize what change would look like. She asks everyone listening to imagine the world’s leaders are in a spacecraft that floats through space, and “we” see the Earth in all its brilliance. It should inspire the world in a way that nothing else can. This is meant, again, to directly reference the Earthrise photo. 

The second part of the stanza asks readers to open their eyes and know that the fate of the planet is being written from moment to moment. It’s important to remember that each day is an opportunity, she suggests, to make a change. 

The final lines are far longer than those they follow in the same stanza. This helps the poet’s final message stand out from the rest of the poem. She suggests that it’s time to try new solutions and rise up to fight for the Earth in a way that’s never been done before. 


What is the message of ‘Earthrise’ by Amanda Gorman?

The message is that the world has one chance to save itself and that if real actions aren’t taken that we might miss our opportunity to stop the growing climate crisis. 

Why did Amanda Gorman write ‘Earthrise?’

Gorman wrote this beautiful poem for the Climate Reality Project, an organization focused on, as her poem is, sharing the reality of the climate crisis and coming up with solutions for the future

What is the tone of ‘Earthrise?’

The tone of ‘Earthrise’ is passionate and determined. The speaker is entirely confident in her message and is unwilling to be swayed by any alternatives. The poet’s care for the many issues facing humanity comes through incredibly clearly. 

What is the theme of ‘Earthrise?’

The theme of ‘Earthrise’ is the climate crisis and the unity (or perspective unity) of the human race. The poet considers the growing climate crisis, human history, and the ways that change needs to take root in order to save the Earth. 

Why is Amanda Gorman important? 

She’s widely regarded as one of the most important and influential poets of her generation. She was the youngest poet ever chosen to recite a poem at a US president’s inauguration ceremony and, since then, has only grown in popularity. 

Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Amanda Gorman poems. For example: 

  • At First– is one of a few poems that Gorman wrote about the COVID-19 pandemic. It discusses the way that the pandemic changed the world through text messages. 
  • New Day’s Lyric– a beautiful Gorman poem that was written in order to inspire readers as 2021 ended and 2022 began. 
  • School’s Out’ – another COVID-19-era poem that explores the experiences of young people who missed out on important life events due to the pandemic. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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