Everyone Can Write Poetry

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 11:42 min

Amanda broadens the concept of who can be a poet and what topics poetry can cover.

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Topics include: Everyone Can Write Poetry * What Is a Poet? * Poetry Makes Us Better


[MUSIC PLAYING] - When I first began writing, to me, it didn't seem like I belonged as a poet or in literature. You're talking about a Black girl with a disability, specifically that of a speech impediment, wanting to be a spoken word poet. That, in itself, felt so antithetical to what I was seeing represented in literature. And as I began writing and reading more, I recognized that my own story of feeling on the outside looking in was really at the heart of what it means to be a poet. In school, I would say, like many people who read poetry in the classroom, for the most part, I was being taught dead, cisgender, heterosexual, white men. And not that the writing wasn't good or impressive, but there is that voice inside me where I was like, I know this isn't it. I know this isn't all there is, because I'm writing, and I look like me. When I first started writing, it wasn't until a mentor gave me a Norton Anthology of African-American poetry that I actually felt at home in literature because it was really the first time that I was seeing a collection of poems which were written by African-Americans who looked like me, who were using the language that I recognized from my home. And I remember reading that and being like, oh, this is it. These are my literary ancestors. And so being able to look at anthologies of Black writers, of Native writers, of trans writers, was so incredible because it was opening up all those doors which hitherto had been closed to me of what it meant to write poetry. Writers who've had influences on my own voice would be Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, all of these really titans of their time who I don't think get enough credit where it's due. But they were writing as Black woman and unapologetically while they were at it. - I have been a woman for a long time. Beware my smile. I am treacherous with old magic and the noon's new fury with all your wide futures promised. I am woman and not white. - Reading Audre Lorde meant so much to me growing up because I was always told in the classroom that there were only a few reasons that you should be writing, which some of them might be to inform, to persuade, to explain, to narrate, to entertain. And nowhere was I really told that I could be writing to empathize, to inspire, to change myself and the world, kind of these bigger and, dare I say, braver ways of writing. Something that I do a lot is rereading her essays and her poems because I think they speak so eloquently to what it means to be a writer. I'm going to read an excerpt of one of my favorite essays by Audre Lorde. This one is called "Poetry is Not a Luxury." In it, she says, "Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It informs the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help ...

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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