Poet triumphs over struggle with sounds

Amanda Gorman speaks with Oprah Winfrey during an episode of “The Oprah Conversation.” Although Gorman was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, she said she has benefitted from overcoming this challenge in her writing. “I’m really grateful actually for that experience because it informs my poetry,” she said. TNS

Amanda Gorman says her speech impediment is anything but.

The Los Angeles-born poet, who became an overnight sensation after reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration in January, spoke about her journey with Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming episode of “The Oprah Conversation.”

“I was born early, along with my twin. And a lot of times, for infants, that can lead to learning delays. And so one of my delays was in speech and speech pronunciation. And also just the auditory processing issue means that I really struggle as an auditory learner,” Gorman, 23, told Winfrey in a clip provided to People from Friday’s episode of the Apple TV+ show.

The impediment made it difficult for the inaugural poet to pronounce sounds like “R,” “Sh,” and “Ch.”

“That was something that I would struggle with until probably 20 years of age. And when you have a last name like Gorman, when you are writing poetry, all the things that constitute my identity — when you go to a school like Harvard, which has two R’s in it — it leads to all these kind of roadblocks,” she explained. “But I’m really grateful actually for that experience because it informs my poetry.”

Gorman credits the learning curve with having made her “that much stronger of a writer,” in no small part because she taught herself “how to say words from scratch,” giving her “a great understanding, I think, of sound, of pitch, of pronunciation.”

In turn, the award-winner, who also read at last month’s Super Bowl, views her “speech impediment not as a weakness or disability, but as one of my greatest strengths.”

Other topics covered in the interview include how “The Hill We Climb” came to be, the poem’s immense impact, and what Gorman is looking forward to in the future.

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