Over the past few years, the world has changed from the familiar to the unrecognizable at a breakneck speed. Almost like blinking, surroundings twisted and became daunting and unfamiliar.
Once a semblance of order began to return to the world, the psychological trauma we had all endured became all that more clear. We’d been through, and are still in the midst of, a global pandemic that kept the world frozen in fear. Lives were forever changed, and there seemed to be no way to express these newfound feelings.
For me, nothing I’d read came close to describing what I had felt during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic until I picked up a copy of Amanda Gorman’s poetry book “Call Us What We Carry.”
I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I was looking forward to it after seeing Gorman’s reading of her powerful poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 presidential inauguration. Seeing her standing in front of the inaugural steps and delivering her elegant and passionate poem to the masses that included the top politicians in the country was an incredible sight to see. She was unapologetically herself and delivered a powerful message of hope for a country fractured by hate and confusion, such as the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
Gorman’s poems create a turbulent feeling in the reader, stirring up so many different kinds of emotions to the surface with her incredible narrative style. Instead of resulting in a muddy mess, this experience is clarifying and puts names to things you may have thought were indefinable.
The poems detailing the pandemic really struck me to my core. She poured fear, anxiety and uncertainty into each line. She allowed for those so negatively affected by the pandemic to be seen, understood and to take a step towards healing these psychic wounds.
Gorman took the blueprint of what a poetry book was and imbued it with a freshness and creativity that establishes Gorman as part of a generation that does things their own way. One poem, "Vale of the Shadow of Death or Extra! Extra! Read All About It," takes the format of a newspaper article, detailing societal traumas and laying them bare in this engrossing format.
Many poems were also shaped like different objects, such as "D.C. Putsch," which is shaped as the Capitol building, visualizing many of the common themes found within the book. Gorman does an excellent job of exploring so many different themes while keeping a connective thread throughout them all.
When a country has problems tangled so severely into its history, it can be near impossible to untangle it and begin anew. It can take a young person such as Amanda Gorman to take a look at America’s history, rife with trauma and scandal, and start the healing process with an honest account of what our country truly is.
She wholeheartedly succeeded in doing this with “Call Us What We Carry.” It’s beautiful poetry with such erudite language and vision. Reading this poetry book is not only a perspective changing experience, but also a life changing experience. I truly cannot recommend it enough.