January 22, 2021

How Poetry Helped Amanda Gorman Find Her Speaking Voice

Presentation Tips , Poems to Read Aloud , Seen|Read|Heard

Photo of Amanda Gorman by Thomas Hatzenbuhler, Architect of the Capitol.


"The girl who would grow up to perform in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai struggled for years not to say ‘poetwy.’"

– Los Angeles Times story about Amanda Gorman

Like everyone else who watched Joe Biden's inauguration, we were delighted by the petite young poet, sleeves of her yellow coat folded back so they didn't hang over her expressive hands.

But as much as her words and delivery wowed us, the story of how poetry helped her find her speaking voice has stayed with us even more strongly.

Amanda Gorman has talked freely about her struggle with speaking. As has another speaker on inauguration day, she's read poetry out loud to help her overcome obstacles. In an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper, she described how the challenge of rapping lyrics from Hamilton had helped her master the "r" sound. 

In a Los Angeles Times article, she talked about how poetry has helped her public speaking and attention to enunciation has changed her relationship with words:

It's made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.

At The Buckley School, we've long been fans of poetry as a tool for improving your public speaking. We even provide a poem every month here in our online magazine to promote that practice. You can find them all here.

Below, you can watch Gorman deliver "The Hill We Climb"

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