The Performance Toolkit

Amanda Gorman

Lesson time 17:54 min

Amanda teaches various tools to bring out your best poetic performance.

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Topics include: The Performance Toolkit * Write for Performance * You Don’t Need to Memorize * Use Your Body, Direct Your Gaze * Controlling Your Voice * Focus Your Rehearsal * Perform to Your Audience


[MUSIC PLAYING] - In this chapter, we will be looking at performance, so what it means to take a poem that's been written on the page and bring it to the stage and bring it to life. Performing on stage as a poet can be quite terrifying. And so in this chapter, I'm going to be telling you the things I've learned about performance, both as a poet and someone who's just had to overcome those difficulties myself. There are ways that you can write a poem knowing that you want it to be animated by a spoken word performance. So it's content, in itself, has been written to be performed. So the rhetorical devices that we're using might lean more into that. I might use more rhyme. I might use more meter. I might use more alliteration. I might use more stressed syllables, knowing that, hey, look around. I get to be on stage. That's super fun. Let me lean into that. And so it's more so celebrating the fact that I will be able to use my whole body. There are things that I can write in a poem like "The Hill We Climb," which might not work on the page. For example, the line about justice versus just is, that works on the page. But it's not until you hear it in my mouth that it might make the most difference. We've learned that quiet isn't always peace. And the norms and notions of what just is isn't always justice. There's some poems that you just write for the page and you end up reciting them. And then there are some poems where we show up knowing that what we're going to create is going to live on the stage. And so if I were to give you a little homework assignment, it would be to identify your favorite piece of music or art to listen to and think about what are the parts in it that felt like they were made to be said. I really want to emphasize that you don't need to memorize your poems to be a spoken word artist. It can help. But I remember, especially when I was in college and I was writing essays and doing work and being expected to show up to a poetry reading and have everything memorized, that was insane to me. At the end of the day, it's not necessarily the memorization that will make you a great poet. It will be how you utter and communicate those words. And in fact, I often try to not memorize certain poems, just because I want to remember what it felt like to write them and not know them yet. And I think sometimes that adds to a more kind of human performance. But there is a reason that for "The Hill We Climb" I wanted to not memorize it and keep it in my binder on the page. Because as much as possible, I wanted that specific poem to feel like it was spoken from the heart, which it was. Because I think, for me, it took place in a crucial time of healing for a country, which meant I had to show up as an American, which meant I had to show up as flawed, which means I had to show up as someone who was both ready to speak with pride and humanity and dignity and compassion. And that wasn't going to come from me remembering...

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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