Case Study: Close Reading - “On The Pulse of Morning”

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 16:19 min

Amanda offers an example of how to use the practice of close reading in poetry.

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Topics include: Case Study: Close Reading - On The Pulse of Morning


[MUSIC PLAYING] AMANDA GORMAN: A rock, a river, a tree host to species long since departed, marked the mastodon-- MAYA ANGELOU: The dinosaur who left dry tokens of their sojourn here on our planet floor. - Any broad alarm of their hastening doom is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. But today, the rock cries out to us clearly, forcefully. Come. You may stand upon my back-- - And face your distant destiny. But seek no haven in my shadow. I will give you no hiding place down here. AMANDA GORMAN: We've talked about close reading in general. Now I really want to show you what that looks like in action. So what we're going to do is as an example close read Maya Angelou's inaugural poem "On the Pulse of Morning" and go through that process of what close reading might look like in that. - Mr. President, and Mrs. Clinton-- AMANDA GORMAN: I selected Maya Angelou's inaugural poem to close read because you can see the ways in which she has influenced the tradition of inaugural poets in history. She brought something new to that stage, which is she brought her femininity. She brought her Blackness. She brought her history with the spoken word oral tradition. Rereading this as well as other inaugural poems was really critical for me in writing "The Hill We Climb." Having that ability to look at other previous works and read them closely enables me to write my own. So when I close read, I'll probably read it through once just to get a feel of the poem. If there's a video of the recitation, I'll watch it as well. And once I've done that kind of general overlook, I will then examine the poem more closely in a close read. I'll also say you can come up with your own kind of language by which you close read on the page. I use dashes and marks and circles and kind of copy editing. There are very specific symbols that you might use when you're looking at a piece. I don't know them, so I don't use them. So I kind of make it up as I go along but just use whatever system makes sense for you. So, for example, let's start with the first verse. I'll have a pen with me, a pencil if I want to erase, and I'll read it aloud to myself. "A rock, a river, a tree host to species long since departed-- - Marked the mastodon, the dinosaur, who left dry tokens of their sojourn here on our planet floor. Any broad alarm of their hastening doom is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. AMANDA GORMAN: If I were to close read this as they went along, I would probably underscore the R of rock as well as river and tree, which is more of a blend of an R, and also underscore these three beat's going on. So the poet is beginning with a meter that has three nouns-- 1, 2, 3, a rock, a river, a tree-- and she's connecting it sonically for us by using various similar sounds in alliteration, which is when you repeat the same type of letter or sound at the beginning of words. Host to species long since departed-- again...

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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