Before Performing, Watch

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 09:52 min

Amanda discusses her performance role models—people like Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis and Beyoncé—and how inspiration from others’ performances can be applied to your own.

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Topics include: Before Performing, Watch * Maya Angelou & Overcoming Obstacles * Traditions of Oratory * Dance: Physical Performance *


[MUSIC PLAYING] - In the same way that, when I'm writing, I think about my key influences and maybe close read them as I'm writing a new poem, when I'm thinking about performers, I will also reflect on my key influences as an orator, as a speaker, while I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to perform a piece. Your self-esteem really takes a hit when you want to be a spoken word poet and you have a speech impediment. It's this-- at the time, for me, felt like this roadblock to what I wanted to be. What mine most prominently looked like is having a difficulty saying the letter R, so whether that be "er" or "your" or the R at the start or middle of words, so road, red. And that's really challenging, especially when you want to say words like poetry, laureate, Gorman, university, all these words that felt very prevalent in my own life. So I tossed the coins into the mud, walking in the direction of home. I watched them tumble and settle, a moist copper brownish red, as if carved from my own flesh. It meant a lot to me as a young girl growing up when I found out that Maya Angelou, who I really looked up to as a spoken word poet, was mute for several years growing up. It was like this huge aha moment of, oh, this person that is so iconic to me and means so much struggled with something similar, meaning that I, too, could dare to dream to recite just like Maya Angelou, despite the fact that I had a speech impediment. - You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt. But still, like dust, I'll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? Just 'cause I walk as if I have oil wells pumping in my living room. AMANDA GORMAN: I will say, often, for whatever you're going through, there typically tends to be someone from the past who has walked a similar path, maybe not the same exact route. But there are, I think, echoes of the past, which can show you it does get better. This is not all there is. - Up from a past rooted in pain, I rise, a black ocean leaping and wide, welling and swelling and bearing in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise. - What I'm talking about in terms of poetry performance is, it's not erasing the fact I have a speech impediment. It's not pretending that doesn't exist for me. It very much so does, in that fear still resides to me. But it's finding tools and resources that I can draw on to make me a stronger poet and a more confident speaker. For example, the exercise that I gave you in revision about coming up with five adjectives for a single word, I did that because I had a speech impediment. I wanted to say at times the word "earth" on stage, but I couldn't pronounce that word. And so I think of "planet," "globe," even "universe," just trying to figure out different ways to communicate it. And so whether or not you have a speech impediment, reflecting on the ways of givi...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author. Electrifying performer. The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Amanda Gorman has revitalized poetry as a unifying form of expression and catalyst for social justice. Now she’s teaching you her deeply personal approach to writing. She’ll help you find your poetic purpose, fight through revisions, and prepare for performance. Discover poetry’s transcendent power to open minds and create change.

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Amanda Gorman

Award-winning Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman teaches you how to harness the power of poetry to become a more thoughtful, compassionate person.

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