Finding Your Unique Poetic Voice

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 09:02 min

Amanda defines what a poetic voice is, how to find your own, and how it works as the “calling card” of a poet.

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Topics include: Finding Your Unique Poetic Voice * Emulate, Don’t Imitate * Purpose, Voice & the Poetic Mantra *


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Your poetic voice is basically your imprint or your DNA as a writer. It's those specific qualities of your tone, your style, your rhetoric, your subject matter which is unique to you. So, for example, if I were to close read my own work and try to say, what is this specific poetic voice that's speaking right now? Just to pick out a verse from my poem, "The Hill We Climb"-- "We've braved the belly of the beast. We've learned that quiet isn't always peace, and the norms and notions of what 'just is' isn't always justice." That's just a small part of my writing. But if I were to read this and say, what is this voice? This voice is a little grave, a little somber without being hopeless and pessimistic. This voice also seems to really lean into sound. , we have braved, belly, beast. We have norms into notions. And this voice is also really interested in deconstructing and breaking words apart. So we're seeing things like "just is" as opposed to "justice." We see "peace isn't quiet." And so if I were to describe this voice, it's both a serious and yet optimistic voice which really wants to pay close attention to the words that we use and how we can detangle them from each other. You'll have your own writing voice that you'll figure out as you keep reading and writing. The way that I saw myself change as I began to write poems-- I was really private. So I wasn't showing them, necessarily, to the people around me. But when I was reading my lyrics on the page, something clicked in my brain that said, this is your voice. It's different and distinct from the voice that you're hearing in your ears, which might sound different from other people's because you have a speech impediment. But what your real voice is-- your true voice-- is the voice of your soul, the voice of your spirit which finds full fruition in poetry. [MUSIC PLAYING] I had an experience where I was mentoring a poetry student. And I asked her if she'd been reading other poets. And she told me no. Because she didn't want her voice to become too much of an imitation of who she was reading. She didn't want her own voice to copy other people's writing. And the thing I would say to these types of students would be, we read other people's writings not to imitate but to emulate. And what I mean by that is, the roots of the word "imitate" comes from the word that means "to copy," "to mirror." While "emulate's" root is from "to rival." And so when we're reading other authors, it's not to become these carbon copy echoes of them. It's to rival. Meaning, it's to become the best of ourselves so we can stand alongside the greatest poets of time. That's what we're aiming for. One of the problems that occurs if you lean too much on imitation is that it becomes kind of a clutch. It becomes something that you depend on in you're writing. , Meaning, it's really difficult for you to stand on your own ground and your own terms. ...

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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