Week One: Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry Read-a-Long

For this first week, we read the first two sections: Requiem and What a Piece of Wreck is Man

I wanted to start the discussion with a few questions about these two sections.

1. Why do you think “Ship’s Manifest” is the opening poem to the collection and no included in the first section, “Requiem?”

2. Gorman’s first section’s title signals that the poems will be a remembrance of the dead, how well do you think the poems accomplish this task? What was one of your favorites?

3. In “What a Piece of Wreck is Man,” what do you think she’s saying with these poems? Is man irredeemable? Is there more to our failures?

4. What are some of your favorite poems or lines in these two sections?

I’ll be monitoring the comments and replying throughout the weekend. Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks.


  1. I think the visual aspects are interesting, but the fish I didn’t think was necessary per se. I agree with Jeanne about the rolling around of the word phrases. I can hear these poems being read aloud even when I’m reading them to myself. I don’t always get that from poetry.

    You know that I just read poetry and enjoy the flow and don’t spend too much time doing analysis. That hinders my enjoyment and bogs me down. I noticed a lot of the poems were about the pandemic, and her poems are relatable and definitely worthy of analysis even if I’m horrible at that LOL

    The one I marked that I really felt was “Surviving,” especially the lines:
    “When tragedy threatens to end us, we are/flooded by what is felt;”

    and especially:

    “We might not be fully sure of all that we are./& yet we have endured all that we were.”

    That poem just spoke to me, about surviving what we endure and the aching feeling of loss.

    For me, it wasn’t so much what she was saying as how her words made me feel. There’s a haunting quality to her words.

    • I agree, there is definitely something haunting in how she builds her poems. It just creates an atmosphere that lingers even after reading the poem. I also liked “Surviving” and those lines in particular.

  2. I’m liking the way she takes familiar phrases and rolls them around in our mouths, like “we were sick of home,/home sick.” Sometimes I feel like the poet tries this too often and it gets preachy (“it is easy to harp,/harder to hope” and “the future isn’t attained./It is atoned”) but then she redeems the poem, for me, with the humor of lines like “now we are beside ourselves” which seems a familiar turn from other poems but fits well into what she is doing in “Good Grief.”
    The tendency towards sounding preachy would be less noticeable if I were hearing these poems, instead of reading them. I think her poems come out of an oral (slam?) tradition and maybe should be presented out loud more often than published.

    • I do notice the slam quality of her poetry a great deal. I find myself reading them aloud as she read the poem at the inauguration. I try to style it as I think she would. I do agree on the page it seems a bit preachy in parts.

      I find her poems talk about darkness and wreckage but there’s always a bit of hopefulness to them. And the lines in “Compass”: “The pain pulls us apart,/Like lips about to speak./Without language nothing can live/” Then there is the lines in “Lighthouse”: “We have never met/& yet we have still lost sight of each other,/Two lighthouses quavering in fog./We could not hold ourselves.//”

      “Call Us” is one of the most spare poems in these sections and yet I love it the most because of how spare it is.

    • Also what did you think about the variation of form, particularly “Essex I”?

      • I feel like she gets in her own way a little bit with the visual forms, like the fish/whale in Essex I. But I often react that way to visual poems.

        • I like the whale also, but there are other shapes and visuals that are not working as well for me in the next section…but I’m getting ahead of the discussion.


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