Nothing / But the World
Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
Viking, December 7, 2021
The youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration in United States history, Amanda Gorman has already become a household name and an inspiration to students everywhere. In Call Us What We Carry, her first full collection of poems since President Biden's 2021 inauguration, Gorman gives voice to our collective experience of weathering the last two years. Her poems, with the central metaphor of a shipwreck—and its survival—running through them, speak to the loneliness and despair of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, our country's long-overdue and ongoing reckoning with systemic racism and racial violence, and the political upheaval of the last several years. Perhaps even more important, Gorman's work keeps one eye trained on the horizon. Hers is a voice for "a light so terrific," insisting in the collection's eponymous poem that "We are enough / … / We walk into tomorrow / Carrying nothing / But the world." Throughout the collection's lyrical journey, Gorman demonstrates a variety, playfulness, and allusiveness of style that is exciting and refreshing, for teachers and students alike. Her work blurs the lines between literary genres, and even academic disciplines, making use of survey results, primary source documents, mathematical concepts, the hero's journey, concrete poems, and even a game of hangman. Most of all, however, Gorman's collection is a reminder that poetry can be a form of processing, on an individual and a collective level. As school communities continue thinking about recovery from the trauma we have all experienced, Gorman's poetry provides both a guide and an inspiration for each of us.