Revision, Revision, Revision

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 10:56 min

Amanda goes through the step-by-step process of poetry revision and completion.

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Topics include: Revision, Revision, Revision * Cut 10 percent * Cutting Clichés & Mixed Metaphors * Vagueness & Lack of Specificity *


[MUSIC PLAYING] - We are going to talk about revision, which, to be honest, was always really daunting to me as a young writer. The idea of looking at my own work and scrutinizing it, looking at it closely, trying to make it better just seemed beyond me. And learning how to revise has been one of the most challenging but I think rewarding aspects of studying the writing craft. So when you're revising poetry, what it typically entails is you looking at some type of draft or version of something you've written and seeing the ways in which you can make it speak more accurately, speak more strongly. And so we're going to look at, how do you go about doing that? How do you look at the skills that we've built in close reading as well as looking at rhetorical devices to know, oh, this is how I take that shape and cut out something really finite and really specific? [MUSIC PLAYING] When I was in college, I was very fortunate to meet the speechwriter for Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Sarah Hurwitz. And one of the two most important things that she told me was, one, always write the truth, and two, cut 10%. And that was huge, I think, pieces of advice for me that I keep to this day. I think the creation process versus the revision process of poetry tends to have very different energies. In the revision version of things, you tend to take that huge form that you just spit out and you're trying to slice it, cut it down. And that's what makes, I think, poetry so unique, because we get such little space. We get a verse. We get a line, you know? We get a haiku. So we don't have time to kind of fill it up with junk that isn't important. So our vision is really about taking the sharpest knife you have available and cutting out what is the keenest, most substantive pieces of the work. And so whenever I write a poem, once I've kind of carved out a draft, I will look at that and automatically off the top shave 10%. I will copy and paste the draft of that poem into a digital word counter, and you can say, oh, the total amount of words is 100, so I should be cutting 10 words. I do it really mathematical in that way. That way, I can be completely heartless and unattached from it. A funny story is that actually for the inauguration, I was given five minutes to do a poem. And when I wrote "The Hill We Climb" originally, it was around nine or 10 minutes long. And I managed to cut it down to six minutes, and I physically could not justify cutting more because every remaining verse seemed so necessary. So I just sent it to the committee, and I was like, I don't think I can cut it down more. If you see a place for me that I can delete, let me know. And they were like, it's great as is. All that is to say you know that you're done when the poem demands to stay exactly the way it is. On that note, I'll say the shortest poem ever recorded is by Muhammad Ali, and it just goes "Me, we." So sometimes cutting things down to ...

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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