Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

Source: Gift
Hardcover, 240 pgs.
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Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman, which was the August read-a-long, is the first poetry collection by the youngest poet laureate to read at a presidential inauguration. Her poems read much like a spoken word poet would recite them. She plays a lot with poetic form, crafting lines into images of whales and masks, and placing poignant lines on the stripes of the American flag. Some of these image-focused poems work well, but others just seem to fall flat.

From "Cut" (pg.26-27)

Disease is physiological death,
Loneliness is a social one,
Where the old We collapses like a lung.
From "War: What, Is It Good? (pg. 118-124)

War, like a whale, is all consuming-
Everything fits into its mesh mouth.
Like a whale, a virus can wolf
Down the globe whole.
The bullet is a beast, as are we.
Our invisible battles
Are the hardest ones to win.


The first step in warfare & pandemics is the same:
Isolation, to rupture the channels of communication of
Later in that poem on mask vs. no mask (pg. 144)

Why it's so perturbing for privileged groups to follow
restrictions of place & personhood.
Doing so means for once wearing the chains their power
has shackled on the rest of us.

Gorman tackles a lot of issues in this collection from slavery and racism to the COVID pandemic and its parallels with the 1918 Spanish flu. Water imagery and references to the slave ships travel throughout the collection, connecting the struggles together into the anchor that many still carry.

There is a lot of struggle and darkness in these poems, but she answers the call of how to move on with love, empathy, and connection. Gorman reminds us that there is hope for change, and that we can make those choices. We are not all that we carry with us.

From "School's Out" (pg. 17-8)

Their feet stomp at our life.
There is power in being robbed
& still choosing to dance.

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman is strongest when it is passionate and honest, when the poems don’t rely too heavily on physical images or erasure to create declarative poems. Her honesty shines brightest in her youthful passion and I am eager to see more from this poet.

RATING: Tercet

This was our August read-a-long selection for the 2022 Poetry Reading Challenge. You can find those discussions below:

About the Poet:

Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, as well as an award-winning writer and cum laude graduate of Harvard University, where she studied Sociology. She has written for the New York Times and has three books forthcoming with Penguin Random House.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, she began writing at only a few years of age. Now her words have won her invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others. Amanda has performed multiple commissioned poems for CBS This Morning and she has spoken at events and venues across the country, including the Library of Congress and Lincoln Center. She has received a Genius Grant from OZY Media, as well as recognition from Scholastic Inc., YoungArts, the Glamour magazine College Women of the Year Awards, and the Webby Awards. She has written for the New York Times newsletter The Edit and penned the manifesto for Nike’s 2020 Black History Month campaign. In 2017, Amanda Gorman was appointed the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate by Urban Word – a program that supports Youth Poets Laureate in more than 60 cities, regions and states nationally. She is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, and is the youngest board member of 826 National, the largest youth writing network in the United States.


  1. I agree with you on this collection. Thank you for hosting the readalong, it was fun!