Reviews for Call Us What We Carry

by Amanda Gorman

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Poems for teenagers and adults that cast a scrutinizing eye on United States history and current events while being hopeful about the future. Gorman’s opening poem, “Ship’s Manifest,” lays out her intentions: “This book is a message in a bottle. / This book is a letter. / This book does not let up. / This book is awake. / This book is a wake. / For what is a record but a reckoning?” Gorman delivers subtle turns of phrase alongside playful yet purposeful punning. The book tackles grief without succumbing to melancholy. It earnestly charts the challenges its collective “we” must navigate, including mask mandates and Covid-19 restrictions; social isolation; the environmental negligence of past generations; and the civil unrest following the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. A “dark girl” dreams and skillfully steers the collective “we” point of view in these poems, which marks a sea change in the United States and, subsequently, in contemporary American poetry. Mostly, the collective “we” point of view adheres. Occasionally it reads as monotonous or prosaic. But variation exists in the diversity of concrete or visual poems—shaped on the page to look like flags, whales, buildings, and text bubbles—and the intricate range of people, generational insights, and historical footnotes populating the pages. The collection overflows with teachable moments you can imagine quoted at graduation ceremonies and special events for years to come. It’s not a book to be read in one sitting but to be savored and revisited. By the time readers are finished, they’ll have discovered Lucille Clifton, Don Mee Choi, M. NourbeSe Philip, and a dizzying host of poets and thinkers that inspired these verses. The poems don’t preen to prove their intelligence; rather, they’re illuminated by it. Gorman’s impulse to enlighten readers rather than exclude them is the book’s guiding force. With generosity and care, Gorman takes the role of the poet seriously: “The poet transcends 'telling' or 'performing' a story & / instead remembers it, touches, tastes, traps its vastness.” An inspired anthem for the next generation—a remarkable poetry debut. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Gorman’s full-length poetry collection (originally titled, like her inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb), offers a stunning amalgamation of poems formatted in different styles to convey a message of sorrow, unity, and collective healing. Gorman aptly organizes her poems into seven sections, navigating such topics as the pandemic, racism, bigotry, and erasure. She uses a variety of styles, including concrete and visual poetry. Within these modes, Gorman eloquently uses the shapes of flags, whales, and buildings to outline the prevailing injustices happening in America and the fragility of the planet as a whole. She further goes on to commute poetry into the virtual age by producing poems that are formatted like text messages (“Sorry for the long text; / There are no small words in the mouth”). Another innovative use of poetic form is when Gorman intersects history with the present by superimposing her words on historical documents. Gorman lays out our pandemic world like a map, providing us hope and solidarity as lights to guide us. In a world filled with the crippling ebb and flow of the pandemic, Gorman offers hope and a push toward a collective society that values and fights for each other. Gorman’s poetry operates as a perfect combination of elegy and call to action. This stunning collection belongs on every shelf.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Poems for teenagers and adults that cast a scrutinizing eye on United States history and current events while being hopeful about the future.Gormans opening poem, Ships Manifest, lays out her intentions: This book is a message in a bottle. / This book is a letter. / This book does not let up. / This book is awake. / This book is a wake. / For what is a record but a reckoning? Gorman delivers subtle turns of phrase alongside playful yet purposeful punning. The book tackles grief without succumbing to melancholy. It earnestly charts the challenges its collective we must navigate, including mask mandates and Covid-19 restrictions; social isolation; the environmental negligence of past generations; and the civil unrest following the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. A dark girl dreams and skillfully steers the collective we point of view in these poems, which marks a sea change in the United States and, subsequently, in contemporary American poetry. Mostly, the collective we point of view adheres. Occasionally it reads as monotonous or prosaic. But variation exists in the diversity of concrete or visual poemsshaped on the page to look like flags, whales, buildings, and text bubblesand the intricate range of people, generational insights, and historical footnotes populating the pages. The collection overflows with teachable moments you can imagine quoted at graduation ceremonies and special events for years to come. Its not a book to be read in one sitting but to be savored and revisited. By the time readers are finished, theyll have discovered Lucille Clifton, Don Mee Choi, M. NourbeSe Philip, and a dizzying host of poets and thinkers that inspired these verses. The poems dont preen to prove their intelligence; rather, theyre illuminated by it. Gormans impulse to enlighten readers rather than exclude them is the books guiding force. With generosity and care, Gorman takes the role of the poet seriously: The poet transcends 'telling' or 'performing' a story / instead remembers it, touches, tastes, traps its vastness.An inspired anthem for the next generationa remarkable poetry debut. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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