3 Poetry Lessons from Amanda and Angelou

Lesson #1: Study

Amanda Gorman, 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at sixteen years old in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate three years later. On Wednesday, she became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, following Maya Angelou and Robert Frost’s considerably more experienced footsteps. (Los Angeles Times)

Random fun fact: Amanda is a twin!

In her CNN interview with Anderson, Gorman spoke about the power of words and all the research that went into her poem, such as reviewing texts from poets of previous inaugurations and studying other orators like Frederick Douglass.

“I did a lot of research ever since I found out I was going to be the inaugural poet in late December. Really doing a deep literature dive of other orators.”

I highlight this because research is not a word we hear often associated with poetry, but the best poets do it. It is not only about stringing some rhymes together. The best poets are avid researchers, readers, and students.

While writing “The Hill We Climb,” the poet listened to music that helped put her “in a historic and epic mind-set,” including soundtracks from “The Crown,” “Lincoln,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hamilton.”

“I wasn’t trying to write something in which those events were painted as an irregularity or different from an America that I know,” said Gorman of the events of January 6th. “America is messy. And I have to recognize that in the poem. I can’t ignore that or erase it.”

I think we can all agree that Maya Angelou had talent, but Angelou also studied the art. In her muteness, she listened to how people spoke, the inflection of their voices, the way their arms and hands moved. She listened to the black ministers and the melody of the preachers, musicians, and performers. She read books of all kinds, traveled to different countries, and learned other languages.

What is the lesson here?

Good poetry is a good study. It is more than the rhyme of a creative mind, but how that creativity can take elements of real life, history, and experience and weave it together with language that is so fluid and precise that it enters the heart and goes right down to the soul.

Lesson #2: When You Are Not Writing/Speaking, Read

In the five years, Angelou was mute, she read every book in the black school library and every book she could get from the white school library. She memorized James Weldon Johnson, Paul Lawerence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. She memorized Shakespear, whole plays, and fifty sonnets. Angelou memorized Edgar Allen Poe and all the poetry.

When Angelou decided to speak, she had a lot to say and many ways to say it.

Gorman is also a reader.

“When she’s not watching cooking shows, Gorman copes with isolation by reading books to prepare her for that future. She picked up former President Obama’s “A Promised Land” the day it came out. She’s also reading Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History,” which interrogates long-standing historical narratives from the Haitian Revolution to the Alamo.”

Lesson #3: Learning from Others

I am not going to say that I agree with every lyric of Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb.” Still, I enjoyed the intelligence of the delivery, the poetic techniques used, the alliteration, and the metaphoric skill. I have listened to other poems of Amanda’s, and I love the sound of her voice and the movement of her hands at pivotal points. It is not overly dramatic but poised and elegant.

At the Roar, Grand Slam Gorman said, “The air smelled of Hollywood and desperation.” Gorman’s enunciation of words and clarity of speech speaks to her comprehension of the information. Rather from her speech impediment or the love of poetry, you can tell that Gorman has studied language, and it comes through beautifully in her speech.

Maya Angelou has one of the most powerful voices I had ever heard. We are so blessed that she did not stay silent! What I noticed about Angelou was how she did not limit her reading. Maya embraced different voices and cultures, and I believe this nurtured her perspective so that it stretched wide, and from her poetry, you can hear the wisdom of understanding shine through.

Lesson number three is perhaps the most important one of all.

You do not have to agree with everything someone says or does to learn from them. Remember that Yah spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey. (Numb. 22:28)

Lol. These bitmojis are just funny to me

“I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”

– Amanda Gorman

Movie Night Friday – After Earth

Welcome back to Movie Night Friday. Doggie, say hi.

The Dog EC Hired to Help Host Movie Night Friday.

I know what you’re thinking “That movie was whack”. Which is exactly why we are reviewing it today! This movie has so many messages it’s not even funny. And as a box office disappointment worldwide, I am sure that many of us missed them.

About.

From Wikipedia:

In the 21st century, an environmental cataclysm forces the human race to abandon Earth and to settle on a new world, Nova Prime. One thousand years later, the Ranger Corps, a peacekeeping organization commanded by General Cypher Raige (Will Smith), comes into conflict with the S’krell, alien creatures who intend to conquer Nova Prime. Their secret weapons are the Ursas, large predatory creatures that hunt by “sensing” fear. The Rangers struggle against the Ursas until Cypher learns how to completely suppress his fear, a technique called “ghosting”. After teaching this technique to the other Rangers, he leads the Ranger Corps to victory. Meanwhile, Cypher’s son Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) blames himself for the death of his sister Senshi (Zoë Kravitz) at the hands of an Ursa. Kitai trains to become a Ranger like Cypher, but his application is rejected due to his recklessness. Kitai’s mother Faia (Sophie Okonedo) convinces Cypher to take Kitai on his last voyage before retirement.

The movie gets going after their spaceship crashes due to an asteroid shower. The crash kills everyone on board except for Cypher and Kitai but Cypher’s leg is broken. It is then up to Kitai to move across the dangerous planet to where the other part of the ship landed to retrieve the instrument that will allow them to access the help they need. The planet is dangerous and filled with animals and aliens that kill humans. Welcome to earth.

As stated, there’s a lot in this movie but I am drafting this late and so I’m kinda tired. Buuutt, I like you. (Kinda …lol)  So I still managed to choose five of the key lessons that stuck out to me:

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#1. You’re Not Ready

In the beginning of the movie, Kitai is rejected from being a ranger which makes him upset. However, sometimes we think we’re ready for something that we have no idea we’re not ready for. We can feel ready but without the experience of enduring the necessary hardships it takes to get to that level, we will not actually be ready. Without falling and getting back up babies do not learn to walk. Kitai is a baby and still has a lot of fear in his heart.

#2. Fear is not real

This leads me to the next, most prominent message. The most popular quote from the movie:

“You have to remember, fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”

Cypher explains this to Kitai after explaining how he Ghost for the first time and even though it’s a movie, I do believe it is true. We choose to be afraid and we choose what fear makes us do. Danger is real and it is only foolish not to prepare for danger but the act of being afraid is something we choose to do. Why? Because we limit ourselves to physical limitations but faith? Faith is limitless and where there is faith, there is no fear. Where there is fear, there is no faith. The two cannot coexist.

#3. Ghosting

Speaking of fear, one of the dominant messages in the movie, the thing that Kitai set out to perfect is Ghosting. It is when the soldiers can rid themselves of fear. When this happens, the aliens cannot see them, thus they Ghost. This gives them an upper hand and they can now defeat the enemy. Throughout the movie Kitai’s goal is to be like his dad and Cypher is known for Ghosting. It is what makes him strong. (There’s another part to this. Masking his emotions makes Cypher stronger but it also makes him weak in a way because by coming across emotionless and cold he is unable to connect emotionally with his son).

To fight your demons, you must rid yourself of the fear of them because fear is the power they have over you. I remember watching Nightmare on Elmstreet. At the end, Nancy turned her back on Freddy and he disappeared. Once she let go of her fear of him, he could not exist. Maya Angelou said the greatest of all virtues is courage because you can’t practice anything consistently without courage. Fear will always hold you back.

#4. Your Father Knows Your Heart / Leads, Guides You

One powerful scene is when Kitai lied about his number of breathing elements. Since humans are no longer in tuned with the earth, the air has changed and can kill them so they have to take breathing fluids. Long story short, while Cypher can’t accompany Kiati on his mission because of his leg, he can see him, monitor him and guide him along the way. Kitai can’t see his father physically but he’s there watching over him. Anywho, Cypher asks Kitai how many breathing fluids he has left and he lies about it. When he lies the heart monitor goes off. Cypher asks him to repeat his answer. His father knows he’s lying. The message is that a father (Like YAH our father, the creator) knows our hearts. He also watches over us and guides us. Even though we cannot physically see him, he’s there.

#5. Endure Trial

Once Kitai spent time in an environment that tested his faith and forced him to move passed the fear, by the end of the movie he was actually ready to be a ranger. Not that he wanted to after what he and his father had been through but in essence he was ready. When you ask for strength be ready to receive it. It is not something that will fall into your lap “Wilily Nilly”. It is something that comes only as a result of overcoming. Truth is, Kitai couldn’t be made Ranger at the beginning because he had never been through anything. (By the end Cypher also learns to be vulnerable with his son).

You see, the reason many people disliked this movie is because the movie itself is spiritual and packed with symbolism when most people just want to be entertained. Not only did Will and Jaden carry the entire movie but they did so well.

Movie Trailer

Next week, I will speak about the TV show Underground and why I love it. Stay tuned!

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HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

 

Dear Chandelier,

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Some of us are just too close to the ground to see what the sky looks like and yet you, in your own way, have become the hanging crystal of inspiration. You stand unaffected among grand halls and ballrooms; of corporate offices and living rooms. I watch at the coming and going of guests. Some of them important, some not. They wrap themselves in fruitless conversation and rest their bottoms in chairs that hug the table beneath you. They shout with laughter and hold their noses in the air and yet they live on the ground. They have to look up to you and gasp in awe. So modest and rooted is this simple fixture in a room. I watch as your radiance pulls their mouths to the floor. Watch your occasional swing shift their eyes; watch your gracefulness stop their breaths. Softly and delicately, your crystals spark reflection like the conviction of a mirror, in which we are all forced to see ourselves. We try to move to a less luminous part of the room, but we are powerless to scorch your light. Voices rise to distract from your daintiness. The people scream and yell, come and go, but they are incapable of stealing your glory, let alone catch its shadow bouncing off the walls and chipping at the faces of guests. It is you oh Chandelier. You who remains steadfast and immovable, yet moving. Silent, and yet you sing. Fragile, and yet strong. Beautiful, and yet delicate. Modest, and yet shinning.

Critique a Piece of Work – “A Raisin in the Sun”

I love experimenting with symbolism and imagery in my writing and in my poetry. Last year, I participated in a Writing 101 assignment that asked us to Critique a Piece of Work, in which I shared my thoughts on Gwendolyn Brooks “We Real Cool”. I thought that would be fun to experiment with again today.

Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” is the classic play by Lorraine Hansberry that was performed on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes. A Raisin in the Sun is a piece that is loaded with symbolism.

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To start, heat from the sun is very intense and it drains just as much energy as it gives. It is exhausting and causes death to those who cannot escape a temporary refuge away from its obvious danger. While some sunlight causes plants to grow, too much sun can be destructive.

Raisin

Raisins come from grapes that are dried out by the sun. The sun sucks its moisture and nutrients until it has withered dramatically. However, dried grapes writhe and get small, but they do not turn to mush and rot. (Which is totally awesome. I love raisins!)

A raisin in the sun is symbolic of a family’s dreams under the intense struggles they must endure to reach it. It symbolizes that the family’s dreams and hopes for a better life will never dry up, but more importantly, their dreams will never rot despite the intense struggles they are under.

The Plant

The plant that Mama keeps near the apartment’s sole window is barely surviving because it lacks adequate nourishment.  Yet she is completely dedicated to the plant and lovingly tends it every single day in the hopes that it will one day be able to flourish. This is by far the play’s most overt symbol because the plant acts as a metaphor for the family.

Cockroaches, Rats, etc.

These creatures heavily reinforce the Younger family’s undesirable living situation.

Sunlight

Hansberry writes about sunlight and how the old apartment has so little of it. The first thing Ruth asks about in Act Two, Scene One is whether or not the new house will have a lot of sunlight. Sunlight is a symbol for hope and life, since all human life depends on warmth and energy from the sun. Light is also symbolic for truth. It is the truth that truly sets a people free.

 

10 Commandments Statue Must be Removed from State Capitol

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For those of you who know me, you know I like symbolism and this story is very symbolic to me. For the record I’m not a Christian so this is not about religion, it’s deeper than that.

They are removing a statue that is representative of the 10 commandments. Interesting. Let that marinate.

Link to the story:

10 Commandments statue must be removed from state Capitol, Oklahoma Supreme Court rules.

The Radio

Love this! Objectification at its finest. I Love this kind of writing.

Object Relations

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Your voice wants to be held. Close tucked into the palm of my ear and bent like crooked fingers curling, you smolder. Burnt notes crackle. You are the tip of an unfiltered cigarette. You ash where others breathe. When my hand opens, you’re caught, finger fried in the molding of what wants to be said and what slips behind. Forever binding, you fall in between the cracks of my hearing. Softer words were never said.

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