Breakthrough: Behind the Scenes of “The Hill We Climb”

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 12:23 min

Amanda breaks down the behind-the-scenes elements of her famous performance at the 2021 presidential inauguration.

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Topics include: Breakthrough: Behind the Scenes of The Hill We Climb * January 20th. 2021 * Performance Mistakes & Missteps * Your Poetry Can Change the World *


[MUSIC PLAYING] I always think that success is when preparation meets opportunity. So for example, for around six years, I'd been challenging myself, from college on, that every single poem I was going to write, I was going to write a poem that was worthy of an inauguration. I didn't know I'd be the 2021 inaugural poet, but I also knew in the future I would have loved to do that. And I wasn't going to wait around kind of for the opportunity to arise. I was just going to practice and hone my craft and hone my skills so that, when the time arose, I would be ready, and I could claim it and make the most of that opportunity. And in the end of 2020, I received a phone call from the Biden administration telling me that I had been selected to be the 2021 inaugural poet, which-- mind-blowing because, at that time, I would step into this role as the youngest person who had ever done that before by 22 years, so basically my entire life. So on January 20, I went out and performed my poem, "The Hill We Climb," expecting that moment to mean a lot to me, but not necessarily for it to resonate with as many people globally as it did. And now, I'm going to walk you through what rehearsal and prep looks liked for me for my inaugural poem in 2021. [MUSIC PLAYING] On that day, I woke up, and I was so nervous, so terrified, that my body was kind of on autopilot. I woke up two hours before I needed to, did my makeup, did my hair, got in the motorcade. And we were off. Honestly, when you're doing spoken word, so much of the labor has already been done. People don't see that. People don't get a kind of close lens into what it was like for me to spend days just writing and not sleeping and not eating. And so when I showed up to the podium and I finished, it was this feeling of, I've already done so much of the time and the energy. The only thing that is required of me in this moment is for me to show up. And if I can do that, then I've succeeded. With "The Hill We Climb," I knew I was going to be an inauguration that was going to be quite unlike any one we'd seen before because of the pandemic. So I knew, for example, that my audience were going to mostly be virtual. And what that meant for me is, I had to try as much as possible to make this performance intimate and close and familial. So that might even include, for example, my makeup. The reason I kind of wore makeup that was really bright and loud is, I wanted people to feel like they could still see my face, even if they were miles and miles away, watching through a webcam. And another thing I thought about in terms of audience is, I think most people consider my audience for the inaugural poem to be this, to be the audience I'm speaking to as a country. But I began the poem addressing the President of the United States, who was actually at my back. Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans, and the world-- so when I was performing and rehe...

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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