Researching Your Poem

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 09:37 min

Amanda teaches the fundamentals of how to approach and conduct research for poetry writing.

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Topics include: Researching Your Poem * The Two Sides of Brainstorming * Brainstorming With Word Clouds


[MUSIC PLAYING] AMANDA GORMAN: One of the great aspects of poetry is we can just sit down on a bench and write. But I think sometimes the poems that we write tend to necessitate some type of research, knowledge, understanding. So when you have more materials, and ideas, and knowledge that you can draw on, it can just make your poem all the more stronger because it's built in this bedrock of deeper understanding. I think of it as a garden, meaning that what people see of my work, it's kind of like the flowers. You see all the petals and the leaves, and it's nice, and it's pretty, but there's also, just as importantly, the roots that don't go seen, which are a kind of these channels of water and nutrients that feeds the poems. So I'll do hours, and days, and weeks of research that no one really sees. You just see the five-minute poem later, but it's stabilized and fed by all of the bedrock beneath the surface. I think so often when we imagine the poet writing process, we imagine someone at a desk putting words to paper. But just as important are the moments that the poet takes to read, to listen, to understand. Just as important is that moment of the poet leaving the desk and going to kind of seek answers for themselves. And that's something that I want to walk you through. I think being able to gather information for yourself that you're going to funnel into a poem is a really useful skill to have, especially when you're writing, let's say, a poem that's really challenging and really difficult. To split it into two major buckets, typically when I'm doing research for a poem, one of the things I'm looking for has anyone else written a poem like this. If so, how did they go about it? What does that poem look like? Being able to research the ways in which other writers have written a similar poem will be really useful for you in understanding the ways in which you can write that for yourself. The other bucket I'm looking to is research for the subject matter I'm writing about. What information do I need to write this? What questions do I need to be asking? What pieces of knowledge will be critical for me in writing this type of poem? So for example, with The Hill We Climb, in those two buckets, I was looking really closely at other inaugural poems that had been written, other inaugural poets talking about how they'd gone through that process. And I was close reading their work. And then the other bucket I was looking to was researching pandemics. I was researching other speeches and moments of just deep darkness felt on a societal level and how that might be communicated through language. And so I was both looking to other writers that had come before me, while also looking to other forms of knowledge that could help me in getting through this poem. The more that you can do research in kind of the gestation and the birth of the poem, the better and stronger on that poem will be because of it. And we did not feel p...

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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