Discussion questions for the film

After you have watched the film, you may want to discuss your reactions and ask others what they are thinking.  Try a few of these questions to get the discussion going.


Where do you think Martin gets his inspiration for his work?  How does he prepare for performances?  How does he use his audience’s responses as part of his own writing?


How did Martin and Paul Laurence Dunbar “meet”?  How and why have they worked together over the years?  How has HWM introduced PLD to us in special ways?


Discuss how you feel when you hear Martin perform.  What are the values and impact of his work for you?  How do you think he reaches people in special ways?  What do you think he cares about most in the world?


Look into some of the places Martin has lived.  What were his parents like?  How did the places, events, and people he encountered shape his life and works?


Martin was a student at the University of Toledo and now one of their “most distinguished alumni.”  Look up his Collected Papers at the UT Library Canaday Center.  What does a writer’s collection of a lifetime tell us about his beliefs, goals, and achievements?


Which of Martin’s own works and his performances of Dunbar do you enjoy most and why?  Try reading some of them out loud yourself.  Does watching and listening to Martin make you want to perform yourself?


Research some of the operas and plays Martin has written and performed in.  How do you think his roles in theater and music became major ingredients in his poetry and performance?


What do you feel Martin means when he says poets often get “too close to the truth”?  What does he mean when he says we cannot tell the dancer from the dance?


Research some of the other accomplished artists interviewed in the movie (Nikki Giovanni, Naomi Long Madgett, and Bing Davis).  What do they identify for us about Martin’s achievements?


Discuss your feelings about meeting Martin’s family in the movie and entering his home.  How do you feel his personal life and his life as a writer and performer influence each other?


What role does “the divine” play in Martin’s work?  Where does he find it?  Where does he express it?


 Martin has written and performed for over four decades.  How did his work contribute to–or go against the grain of–various literary movements from the 1970s to the present?