Case Study: Brainstorming Plummer

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 15:39 min

This in-depth lesson uses Amanda’s personal journals to show how she brainstormed portions of her newly published book, Call Us What We Carry.

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Topics include: Case Study: Brainstorming Plummer * Finding Plummer * Writing Plummer *


[MUSIC PLAYING] - We've talked a lot about research in brainstorming. I now want to walk you through what that looks like for me. And I will start by saying this process is messy. There is nothing perfect about it. For that reason, I often don't share my first drafts or brainstorming processes with others, because it's so intimidating. But I want you to see that chaos. I want you to see that mess, so maybe you too can see the ways that you can brainstorm and then build that to our final poem. I'm going to look at a journal that I kept while I was writing my book "Call us What we Carry," and it's really just a scrapbook of my ideas, lines that came to my head. I'm going to look at the brainstorming process that happened for one of the hardest series of poems in the collection, which is called "Plummer." At the time I'd been reading an amazing work of poetry called "DMZ Colony" by Don Mee Choi. And she does something incredible, which is she imagines herself as writing poems from the voices of Korean children, during violence during the Korean War and what that life might have looked like for them. I wanted to look at African-American soldiers and nurses during World War I. In my first brainstorming page, I'm just really vomiting out ideas, trying to think of what historical materials would I like to look to for my own type of poem, if I were to re-imagine somebody else's voice. So I have here, also wonder if can use photos in public domain or print. What can I work with for text? I'm like, my notes are so messy, I'm like having a difficult time even reading them now. Can I play with letters, maybe focus on soldiers and nurses. I even have a note here to myself about works in the public domain, which I'd found from research, saying all works published in the United States before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain. So this is all messy, just to have this stream of consciousness where I'm trying to figure out ways in which to enter this poem. Once I did this really messy, crazy brainstorming, and I found the document I wanted to work with, that piece of history I settled on was a diary kept by Corporal Plummer during World War I. Plummer was a Black serviceman who was sent to France to help with supplying troops while fighting in the war. And when I was reading his journal entries, I found out that he was a clerk, which means that he brought a very profound understanding of grammar, economy of language, to his journals. So the entries are very short. But he makes the most of the space he has available in this tiny pamphlet diary. And so I thought the haiku, which in English uses three lines, one of five syllables, the next of seven, the next of five, was a good, poetic way to emulate Plummer's voice, because it made me have to think more concisely about what I was saying, as if I was a clerk in his shoes. So here I have the first few drafts of me trying to figure out ways to re-communicate Plummer's experien...

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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