Review of Call Us What We Carry, by Amanda Gorman

Call Us What We Carry


by Amanda Gorman

Viking, 2021. 228 pages.
Review written September 20, 2022, from my own copy, purchased via
Starred Review

I don’t purchase a lot of poetry books, but I was so happy with this one, and I’ve spent the last few months reading a poem or two a day most days.

Amanda Gorman was the 2021 Inaugural Poet, and the stirring poem she recited that day, “The Hill We Climb,” is the final poem in this book.

The book is full of poems as moving and insightful as that one. Amanda Gorman has a way with words. The poems are full of rhymes and alliteration and word play, turning words as if they are pieces of glass, reflecting light in different ways.

These are poems about current times. Written during the thick of the pandemic, there’s plenty about pain and death and healing.

Here’s a small stanza where I underlined the middle line:

Perhaps our relationships are the very make of us,
For fellowship is both our nature & our necessity.
We are formed primarily by what we imagine.

There’s lots that’s lovely here, and lots that made me pause in meditation.

I’ll be honest — there’s a big section in the middle with “erasure poems” — poems made by erasing parts of a document, using what is left. I didn’t enjoy those poems as much. For me, they didn’t have the resonance and didn’t roll off the tongue as well. But I think she was going for the significance of the documents she chose — documents about slaves and about indigenous people treated horribly — and they definitely still have punch.

Altogether, this is a book of poems I’ll want to come back to. I’m glad I got my own copy.

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.

(p. 205, from “What We Carry”)

And from “The Hill We Climb”:

When day comes, we step out of the shade,
Aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it,
For there is always light.
If only we’re brave enough to see it,
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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