full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Amanda Gorman: Using your voice is a political choice

Unscramble the Blue Letters

I have two questions for you. One: whose shoulders do you stand on? And two: what do you stand for? These are two questions that I always begin my poetry worpohkss with students because at times, poetry can seem like this dead art form for old white men who just seem like they were born to be old, like, you know, bmeajnin Button or something. And I ask my snttudes these two qosteiuns, and then I share how I aenswr them, which is in these three sentences that go: I am the daughter of Black writers, who are descended from fereodm ferhgtis who broke their cinhas and changed the world. They call me. And these are words I repeat in a mantra before every single poetry performance. In fact, I was doing it in the corner over there. I was making faces. And so I repeat them to myself, as a way to gather myself, because I'm not sure if you know, but public speaking is pertty terrifying. I know I'm on stage, and I have my heels, and I look all glam, but I'm horrified. And the way in which I kind of strengthen myself, is by having this mantra. Most of my life I was particularly terrified of sapknieg up, because I had a speech iepmeindmt, which made it difficult to pronounce certain letters, sounds, and I felt like I was fine writing on the page, but once I got on stage, I was wrreoid my words might jumble and stumble. What was the point in trying not to mumble these thoughts in my head, if everything's already been said before? But finally I had a moment of realization, where I thought, if I choose not to speak out of fear, then there's no one that my secnlie is standing for. And so I came to realize that I cannot stand standing to the side, standing silent. I must find the strength to speak up, and one of the ways I do that is through this mantra where I call back to what I call honorary ancestors. These are people who might not be reletad to you by blood, or by birth, but who are more than worth saying their names, because you snatd on their shoulders all the same. And it's only from the height of these shoulders that we might have the sgiht to see the mighty pewor of poetry, the power of language made accessible, expressible. Poetry is interesting because not everyone is going to become a great poet, but anyone can be, and anyone can enjoy poetry, and it's this openness, this accessibility of poetry that makes it the language of people. Poetry has never been the language of brierras, it's always been the language of bridges. And it's this connection- making that makes poetry, yes, powerful, but also makes it political. One of the things that irritates me to no end, is when I get that phone call, and it's usually from a whtie man, and he's like, "Man, Amanda, we love your poetry, we'd love to get you to write a poem about this subject, but don't make it political." Which to me sunods like, I have to draw a suarqe, but not make it a rectangle, or build a car and not make it a vehicle, it doesn't make much sense, because all art is political. The decision to create, the artistic choice to have a voice, the choice to be heard is the most political act of all. And by "political" I mean poetry is political in at least three ways: One: what stories we tell, when we're telling them, how we're telling them, if we're telling them, why we're telling them, says so much about the political beliefs we have, about what types of stories matter. Secondly, who gets to have their stories told, I'm talking, who is legally aellwod to read, who has the resources to be able to write, who are we reading in our classrooms, says a lot about the political and educational ssmytes, that all these soertis and storytellers exist in. Lastly, poetry is patoicill because it's preoccupied with ppeole. If you look at history, notice that tyrants often go after the poets and the creatives first. They burn books, they try to get rid of ptoery and the language arts, because they're terrified of them. petos have this phenomenal pnatoitel to connect the beliefs of the private individual with the cause of change of the plbiuc, the population, the ptloiy, the political movement. And when you leave here, I really want you to try to hear the ways in which poetry is actually at the center of our most political questions about what it means to be a dacemcory. Maybe later you're going to be at a protest, and someone's going to have a ptoser that says, "They buried us, but they didn't know we were seeds." That's poetry. You might be in your U.S. History class, and your teheacr may play a vedio of Martin Luther King Jr. saying: "We will be able to hew out of this mountain of despair a stone of hope." That's poetry. Or maybe even here, in New York City, you're going to go visit the Statue of Liberty where there's a sonnet that declares, as Americans, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." So you see, when someone asks me to write a poem that's not political, what they're really asking me is to not ask charged and challenging questions in my poetic work, and that does not work, because poetry is always at the pulse of the most dangerous and most daring questions that a nation or a wolrd might face. What path do we stand on as a people, and what fturue as a people do we stand for? And the thing about poetry is that it's not really about having the right answers, it's about asking these right questions, about what it means to be a writer doing right by your words and your actions, and my reaction is to pay honor to those shoulders of people who used their pens to roll over boulders so I might have a mountain of hope on which to stand, so that I might understand the power of tlleing stories that matter no matter what. So that I might razliee that if I choose, not out of fear, but out of courage, to speak, then there's something unique that my wodrs can become. And all of a sudden that fear that my words might jumble and stumble go away as I'm humbled by the thoughts of thousands of stories a long time coming that I know are strumming inside me as I celebrate those people in their time who stood up so this little Black girl could rhyme as I celebrate and call their names all the same, these people who seem like they were just born to be bold: Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Phillis Wheatley, Lucille coflitn, Gwendolyn boroks, Joan Wicks, adure ldore, and so many more. It might feel like every story has been told before, but the truth is, no one's ever told my srtoy in the way I would tell it, as the daughter of black writers, who are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me. I call them. And one day I'll write a story right, by writing it into a tomorrow on this Earth more than worth standing for. Thank you.

Open Cloze

I have two questions for you. One: whose shoulders do you stand on? And two: what do you stand for? These are two questions that I always begin my poetry _________ with students because at times, poetry can seem like this dead art form for old white men who just seem like they were born to be old, like, you know, ________ Button or something. And I ask my ________ these two _________, and then I share how I ______ them, which is in these three sentences that go: I am the daughter of Black writers, who are descended from _______ ________ who broke their ______ and changed the world. They call me. And these are words I repeat in a mantra before every single poetry performance. In fact, I was doing it in the corner over there. I was making faces. And so I repeat them to myself, as a way to gather myself, because I'm not sure if you know, but public speaking is ______ terrifying. I know I'm on stage, and I have my heels, and I look all glam, but I'm horrified. And the way in which I kind of strengthen myself, is by having this mantra. Most of my life I was particularly terrified of ________ up, because I had a speech __________, which made it difficult to pronounce certain letters, sounds, and I felt like I was fine writing on the page, but once I got on stage, I was _______ my words might jumble and stumble. What was the point in trying not to mumble these thoughts in my head, if everything's already been said before? But finally I had a moment of realization, where I thought, if I choose not to speak out of fear, then there's no one that my _______ is standing for. And so I came to realize that I cannot stand standing to the side, standing silent. I must find the strength to speak up, and one of the ways I do that is through this mantra where I call back to what I call honorary ancestors. These are people who might not be _______ to you by blood, or by birth, but who are more than worth saying their names, because you _____ on their shoulders all the same. And it's only from the height of these shoulders that we might have the _____ to see the mighty _____ of poetry, the power of language made accessible, expressible. Poetry is interesting because not everyone is going to become a great poet, but anyone can be, and anyone can enjoy poetry, and it's this openness, this accessibility of poetry that makes it the language of people. Poetry has never been the language of ________, it's always been the language of bridges. And it's this connection- making that makes poetry, yes, powerful, but also makes it political. One of the things that irritates me to no end, is when I get that phone call, and it's usually from a _____ man, and he's like, "Man, Amanda, we love your poetry, we'd love to get you to write a poem about this subject, but don't make it political." Which to me ______ like, I have to draw a ______, but not make it a rectangle, or build a car and not make it a vehicle, it doesn't make much sense, because all art is political. The decision to create, the artistic choice to have a voice, the choice to be heard is the most political act of all. And by "political" I mean poetry is political in at least three ways: One: what stories we tell, when we're telling them, how we're telling them, if we're telling them, why we're telling them, says so much about the political beliefs we have, about what types of stories matter. Secondly, who gets to have their stories told, I'm talking, who is legally _______ to read, who has the resources to be able to write, who are we reading in our classrooms, says a lot about the political and educational _______, that all these _______ and storytellers exist in. Lastly, poetry is _________ because it's preoccupied with ______. If you look at history, notice that tyrants often go after the poets and the creatives first. They burn books, they try to get rid of ______ and the language arts, because they're terrified of them. _____ have this phenomenal _________ to connect the beliefs of the private individual with the cause of change of the ______, the population, the ______, the political movement. And when you leave here, I really want you to try to hear the ways in which poetry is actually at the center of our most political questions about what it means to be a _________. Maybe later you're going to be at a protest, and someone's going to have a ______ that says, "They buried us, but they didn't know we were seeds." That's poetry. You might be in your U.S. History class, and your _______ may play a _____ of Martin Luther King Jr. saying: "We will be able to hew out of this mountain of despair a stone of hope." That's poetry. Or maybe even here, in New York City, you're going to go visit the Statue of Liberty where there's a sonnet that declares, as Americans, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." So you see, when someone asks me to write a poem that's not political, what they're really asking me is to not ask charged and challenging questions in my poetic work, and that does not work, because poetry is always at the pulse of the most dangerous and most daring questions that a nation or a _____ might face. What path do we stand on as a people, and what ______ as a people do we stand for? And the thing about poetry is that it's not really about having the right answers, it's about asking these right questions, about what it means to be a writer doing right by your words and your actions, and my reaction is to pay honor to those shoulders of people who used their pens to roll over boulders so I might have a mountain of hope on which to stand, so that I might understand the power of _______ stories that matter no matter what. So that I might _______ that if I choose, not out of fear, but out of courage, to speak, then there's something unique that my _____ can become. And all of a sudden that fear that my words might jumble and stumble go away as I'm humbled by the thoughts of thousands of stories a long time coming that I know are strumming inside me as I celebrate those people in their time who stood up so this little Black girl could rhyme as I celebrate and call their names all the same, these people who seem like they were just born to be bold: Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Phillis Wheatley, Lucille _______, Gwendolyn ______, Joan Wicks, _____ _____, and so many more. It might feel like every story has been told before, but the truth is, no one's ever told my _____ in the way I would tell it, as the daughter of black writers, who are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me. I call them. And one day I'll write a story right, by writing it into a tomorrow on this Earth more than worth standing for. Thank you.

Solution

  1. freedom
  2. square
  3. audre
  4. realize
  5. worried
  6. words
  7. potential
  8. barriers
  9. fighters
  10. stories
  11. telling
  12. sounds
  13. polity
  14. silence
  15. video
  16. white
  17. lorde
  18. questions
  19. political
  20. stand
  21. power
  22. related
  23. pretty
  24. chains
  25. students
  26. brooks
  27. poets
  28. speaking
  29. answer
  30. people
  31. impediment
  32. clifton
  33. poster
  34. future
  35. public
  36. teacher
  37. democracy
  38. systems
  39. world
  40. workshops
  41. allowed
  42. sight
  43. benjamin
  44. poetry
  45. story

Original Text

I have two questions for you. One: whose shoulders do you stand on? And two: what do you stand for? These are two questions that I always begin my poetry workshops with students because at times, poetry can seem like this dead art form for old white men who just seem like they were born to be old, like, you know, Benjamin Button or something. And I ask my students these two questions, and then I share how I answer them, which is in these three sentences that go: I am the daughter of Black writers, who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me. And these are words I repeat in a mantra before every single poetry performance. In fact, I was doing it in the corner over there. I was making faces. And so I repeat them to myself, as a way to gather myself, because I'm not sure if you know, but public speaking is pretty terrifying. I know I'm on stage, and I have my heels, and I look all glam, but I'm horrified. And the way in which I kind of strengthen myself, is by having this mantra. Most of my life I was particularly terrified of speaking up, because I had a speech impediment, which made it difficult to pronounce certain letters, sounds, and I felt like I was fine writing on the page, but once I got on stage, I was worried my words might jumble and stumble. What was the point in trying not to mumble these thoughts in my head, if everything's already been said before? But finally I had a moment of realization, where I thought, if I choose not to speak out of fear, then there's no one that my silence is standing for. And so I came to realize that I cannot stand standing to the side, standing silent. I must find the strength to speak up, and one of the ways I do that is through this mantra where I call back to what I call honorary ancestors. These are people who might not be related to you by blood, or by birth, but who are more than worth saying their names, because you stand on their shoulders all the same. And it's only from the height of these shoulders that we might have the sight to see the mighty power of poetry, the power of language made accessible, expressible. Poetry is interesting because not everyone is going to become a great poet, but anyone can be, and anyone can enjoy poetry, and it's this openness, this accessibility of poetry that makes it the language of people. Poetry has never been the language of barriers, it's always been the language of bridges. And it's this connection- making that makes poetry, yes, powerful, but also makes it political. One of the things that irritates me to no end, is when I get that phone call, and it's usually from a white man, and he's like, "Man, Amanda, we love your poetry, we'd love to get you to write a poem about this subject, but don't make it political." Which to me sounds like, I have to draw a square, but not make it a rectangle, or build a car and not make it a vehicle, it doesn't make much sense, because all art is political. The decision to create, the artistic choice to have a voice, the choice to be heard is the most political act of all. And by "political" I mean poetry is political in at least three ways: One: what stories we tell, when we're telling them, how we're telling them, if we're telling them, why we're telling them, says so much about the political beliefs we have, about what types of stories matter. Secondly, who gets to have their stories told, I'm talking, who is legally allowed to read, who has the resources to be able to write, who are we reading in our classrooms, says a lot about the political and educational systems, that all these stories and storytellers exist in. Lastly, poetry is political because it's preoccupied with people. If you look at history, notice that tyrants often go after the poets and the creatives first. They burn books, they try to get rid of poetry and the language arts, because they're terrified of them. Poets have this phenomenal potential to connect the beliefs of the private individual with the cause of change of the public, the population, the polity, the political movement. And when you leave here, I really want you to try to hear the ways in which poetry is actually at the center of our most political questions about what it means to be a democracy. Maybe later you're going to be at a protest, and someone's going to have a poster that says, "They buried us, but they didn't know we were seeds." That's poetry. You might be in your U.S. History class, and your teacher may play a video of Martin Luther King Jr. saying: "We will be able to hew out of this mountain of despair a stone of hope." That's poetry. Or maybe even here, in New York City, you're going to go visit the Statue of Liberty where there's a sonnet that declares, as Americans, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." So you see, when someone asks me to write a poem that's not political, what they're really asking me is to not ask charged and challenging questions in my poetic work, and that does not work, because poetry is always at the pulse of the most dangerous and most daring questions that a nation or a world might face. What path do we stand on as a people, and what future as a people do we stand for? And the thing about poetry is that it's not really about having the right answers, it's about asking these right questions, about what it means to be a writer doing right by your words and your actions, and my reaction is to pay honor to those shoulders of people who used their pens to roll over boulders so I might have a mountain of hope on which to stand, so that I might understand the power of telling stories that matter no matter what. So that I might realize that if I choose, not out of fear, but out of courage, to speak, then there's something unique that my words can become. And all of a sudden that fear that my words might jumble and stumble go away as I'm humbled by the thoughts of thousands of stories a long time coming that I know are strumming inside me as I celebrate those people in their time who stood up so this little Black girl could rhyme as I celebrate and call their names all the same, these people who seem like they were just born to be bold: Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Phillis Wheatley, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Joan Wicks, Audre Lorde, and so many more. It might feel like every story has been told before, but the truth is, no one's ever told my story in the way I would tell it, as the daughter of black writers, who are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me. I call them. And one day I'll write a story right, by writing it into a tomorrow on this Earth more than worth standing for. Thank you.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
freedom fighters 2

Important Words

  1. accessibility
  2. accessible
  3. act
  4. actions
  5. allowed
  6. amanda
  7. americans
  8. ancestors
  9. angelou
  10. answer
  11. answers
  12. art
  13. artistic
  14. arts
  15. asks
  16. audre
  17. barriers
  18. beliefs
  19. benjamin
  20. birth
  21. black
  22. blood
  23. books
  24. born
  25. boulders
  26. bridges
  27. broke
  28. brooks
  29. build
  30. buried
  31. burn
  32. button
  33. call
  34. car
  35. celebrate
  36. center
  37. chains
  38. challenging
  39. change
  40. changed
  41. charged
  42. choice
  43. choose
  44. city
  45. class
  46. classrooms
  47. clifton
  48. coming
  49. connect
  50. corner
  51. courage
  52. create
  53. creatives
  54. dangerous
  55. daring
  56. daughter
  57. day
  58. dead
  59. decision
  60. declares
  61. democracy
  62. descended
  63. despair
  64. difficult
  65. draw
  66. earth
  67. educational
  68. enjoy
  69. exist
  70. expressible
  71. face
  72. faces
  73. fact
  74. fear
  75. feel
  76. felt
  77. fighters
  78. finally
  79. find
  80. fine
  81. form
  82. free
  83. freedom
  84. future
  85. gather
  86. girl
  87. glam
  88. great
  89. gwendolyn
  90. head
  91. hear
  92. heard
  93. heels
  94. height
  95. hew
  96. history
  97. honor
  98. honorary
  99. hope
  100. horrified
  101. huddled
  102. humbled
  103. impediment
  104. individual
  105. interesting
  106. irritates
  107. joan
  108. jr
  109. jumble
  110. kind
  111. king
  112. language
  113. lastly
  114. leave
  115. legally
  116. letters
  117. liberty
  118. life
  119. long
  120. lorde
  121. lot
  122. love
  123. lucille
  124. luther
  125. making
  126. man
  127. mantra
  128. martin
  129. masses
  130. matter
  131. maya
  132. means
  133. men
  134. mighty
  135. moment
  136. mountain
  137. movement
  138. mumble
  139. names
  140. nation
  141. notice
  142. ntozake
  143. openness
  144. page
  145. path
  146. pay
  147. pens
  148. people
  149. performance
  150. phenomenal
  151. phillis
  152. phone
  153. play
  154. poem
  155. poet
  156. poetic
  157. poetry
  158. poets
  159. point
  160. political
  161. polity
  162. poor
  163. population
  164. poster
  165. potential
  166. power
  167. powerful
  168. preoccupied
  169. pretty
  170. private
  171. pronounce
  172. protest
  173. public
  174. pulse
  175. questions
  176. reaction
  177. read
  178. reading
  179. realization
  180. realize
  181. rectangle
  182. related
  183. repeat
  184. resources
  185. rhyme
  186. rid
  187. roll
  188. seeds
  189. sense
  190. sentences
  191. shange
  192. share
  193. shoulders
  194. side
  195. sight
  196. silence
  197. silent
  198. single
  199. sonnet
  200. sounds
  201. speak
  202. speaking
  203. speech
  204. square
  205. stage
  206. stand
  207. standing
  208. statue
  209. stone
  210. stood
  211. stories
  212. story
  213. storytellers
  214. strength
  215. strengthen
  216. strumming
  217. students
  218. stumble
  219. subject
  220. sudden
  221. systems
  222. talking
  223. teacher
  224. telling
  225. terrified
  226. terrifying
  227. thought
  228. thoughts
  229. thousands
  230. time
  231. times
  232. tired
  233. told
  234. tomorrow
  235. truth
  236. types
  237. tyrants
  238. understand
  239. unique
  240. vehicle
  241. video
  242. visit
  243. voice
  244. ways
  245. wheatley
  246. white
  247. wicks
  248. words
  249. work
  250. workshops
  251. world
  252. worried
  253. worth
  254. write
  255. writer
  256. writers
  257. writing
  258. yearning
  259. york