Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, the luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, this beautifully designed volume features poems in many inventive styles and structures and shines a light on a moment of reckoning. Call Us What We Carry reveals that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.
I fell into this poetry book on a Saturday afternoon. I love so many poems in this book. I wish I could share them all, but that would spoil the fun of you discovering them for yourself…hahaha. So, I can only share the little gems I found between the many pages filled with Miss Gorman’s poetry.
In There’s No Power Like Home, she says:
‘…we were sick of home/Home sick. / That mask around our ear/ hung itself into the year.’
The pandemic year so aptly described and our time at home certainly felt like forever. We became homebodies.
In Good Grief, she says,
‘…All that is grave need not be a burden, an anguish/ Call it, instead, an anchor…/ What we carry means we survive/It is what survives us
There are many grave experiences that touch our lives, the most profound one being the loss of those we love. In the storm that follows, the grief we carry makes us, defines who we are, who we become…Ms. Gorman argues it can be called good grief. Something that anchors us to what matters.
In the poem, Call Us, she says,
‘…at times over half of our bodies are not our own/…we are, a boat of a being/ A country/ A continent/ A planet / A Human/ We are we/ Call us/ What we carry
We are never the one thing, no matter how much one thinks so. If not from the country’s viewpoint, even at home we are a child/siblings/parents/aunts and uncles/friends/coworkers…so many parts of us. I love this poem.
In the Lighthouse, Miss Gorman quotes Terrence’s Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. (I’m human, I consider nothing that is human is alien to me.) Then writes of a year lived in isolation mode.
‘…this year was no year/ when next generations ask, we will say/ it went something like this: / the empty/ creaking playing grounds/…gatherings and people, gone to rust/’.
Describing the endless months of not meeting loved ones, coworkers, friends, and family. This poem ends with a bucket of hope that our harsh memories from that year will pass.
‘…hope is no silent harbor, no haven still/ it is the roaring thing that tugs us away/ from the very shores we clutch/…
We move forward despite the hard patch. We meet others now, pushing the fear of the pandemic away, after all, nothing human is alien to us.
In What We Carry, she says,
‘…children understand/ even grime is a gift/ what is mired is miraculous/ what is marred is still marvelous/
This poem reminds us of our childhood days, of running around with no care in the world. Playing in the dirt and lying on the grass staring at the clouds for hours. How we saw beauty before we grew up and our opinions and perception hardened. She speaks of emerging from the pandemic era.
‘…we have recalled how to touch each other/ and how to trust all that is good and all right/’.
How we must look beyond. Carry our hopes forward.
'…We have learned our true names—/ not what we are called/ but what we are called to carry forth from here/ what do we carry, if not/ what and who we care most for/…’
Ms. Gorman ends this poem with a call to let go, to discard, ‘…our rage, our wreckage/ our hubris/ our hate/ our ghosts/ our greed/ our wrath/ our wars/ on the beating shore.’ She hopes we find a haven in what we have left after the ravaging storms we have faced.
‘…what we have left/ is all we need/ we are enough /armed only/ with our hands/ open but unemptied/ just like a blooming thing / we walk into tomorrow/ carrying nothing/ but the world.’