Before Writing, Read

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 09:13 min

This lesson emphasizes the importance of reading to formulate your own poetic voice and build a reservoir of references.

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Topics include: Before Writing, Read * Read Everything Three Times * Master the Close Reading


[MUSIC PLAYING] - As a poet, it can be extraordinarily helpful to have influences that you draw from and sort of kind of create a basis or a foundation by which you define not only what type of poet you are but what type of poet you are not. The more you read, the more deeply you'll understand your own poetic voice. So the more that you can kind of look outward and think with sensitivity and awareness about the words you're taking in, the more accurately you'll be able to understand what constitutes your own style and tone. What I like to do as I read is to create a kind of registry or list of as I'm going along who are the voices who in some way, shape, or form or speaking in a way that feels true to my own voice, and I also create a list of writers who have questions about, not necessarily that I dislike but where would I push back. Where would I challenge? Where would I interrogate that writer? And from there, I kind of create something I can see which is these in my hand might look like writers who are completely different but in some way, shape, or form, they speak something that feels very true to who I am. Reading is to writers and poets what exercise and training is to athletes, meaning it's something that's super helpful in building up your muscle and brain memory. And so on the same way that I wouldn't expect someone who hadn't stretched or run in three months to, you know, do a great marathon, being able to close read is what enables you to build up towards writing your own great poems. So a piece of advice I would give at this point in the lesson would be, as we continue to read more poems and discover more poets, to keep a log or notebook where you write down those poems that really speak to you. Or you write down the names of authors, writers, artists who there's something about them that speaks to your core. So you have literally a list or a registry of your literary ancestors to draw from. [MUSIC PLAYING] Something I would really encourage you to do from here on in is when you read anything, read it at least three times. The first time is just to read it for fun, for giggles. The second time is to read it and really think about maybe what this writer or author is doing well, what they're bringing to the page, what you can learn from them. The third time is to read it to try to see what you would do differently if you were writing that piece. So in a way you're challenging yourself as a writer, but you're also challenging the writer who also put that in your eye line. You're thinking this is what I've been given. What would I push back on? What ways would you have kind of revised and edited this piece? I first started doing that when I was really young for two reasons. One, I had a writing mentor which encouraged me to do that when I was reading. The second reason I did this was because I didn't have that many books on hand. Books are expensive, and I was also kicked out of every library that I ...

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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