Amanda Gorman, the inaugural poet who dreams of writing novels

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Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

A fireplace crackles nearby, I have hot tea in my hands, a blanket in my lap, and a thick, beloved book in my hands.

When did you start reading poetry? Which books made you fall in love with poetry?

In fact, I started writing poetry before I started reading it, mainly because at the time, poetry was not something that was taught in a solid way in my classrooms. Around college, a writing mentor introduced me to Sonia Sanchez’s writing and gave me a book of her new and selected poems, “Shake Loose My Skin”. I fell in love with it and reread it every day. After that, I got my hands on a copy of “Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of African American Poetry”, and I had this feeling of: Oh these are my people.

Is there a particular collection of poems or poet that inspired you to write?

These aren’t poems, but I would say “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury really sparked my interest in writing as a profession. When I came across these works as a young reader, I wanted so much to understand how these writers came to these stories.

Which poets continue to inspire you in your work?

It’s like asking myself questions about the air I breathe. Just a handful are Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Federico García Lorca, Rainer Maria Rilke, Octavia E. Butler and Maya Angelou.

Are there any poets for whom you have gained greater appreciation over time?

Shakespeare, hands down, which may seem a bit elementary as he occupies such a central place in literature. Yet for a very long time I was ambivalent, if not downright skeptical, of Shakespeare for the same reason. He just felt like another dead old white man my teachers were trying to put in my brain as I was desperate to read someone who looked like me. When I was in college I had this moment of thinking: If you’re going to close off on an author, at least read it to understand why. I owed it to myself and to literature. So I pushed myself into taking a course called Global Shakespeare, taught by Dr Leah Whittington, and I fell in love. I think it was finally being able to read Shakespeare through a global, racial and gender lens that got me to see him again.


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