A soaring sense of history and solidarity pervades Gorman’s debut collection ... Gorman’s poetry puts immense pressure on our present moment, committing itself to an archaeology of our past and conservation of our future ... One of the most haunting things about her book is its retreat from the first-person singular ... Gorman’s affirmative choric we echoes Martin Luther King’s memorial dream and John Lennon’s utopian lyricism, but her music also draws on the new dimension opened up by trailblazing poets such as Elizabeth Alexander, Anne Carson and Tracy K Smith ... wide awake to the complex strata of human history and restlessly original in its poetic form ... Gorman is an erudite absorber, resister and recreator of vocal, textual and etymological legacies. Without being overburdened by references, her poems allude to multilayered sources ... Directly and indirectly, grief as ubiquitous as light holds Gorman’s book together ... Gorman has written a mnemonic symphony of hope and solidarity in the face of the 'vanishing meaning' of our time, speaking eloquently with 'the lip of tomorrow'.
Gorman veers away from the aspirational and hopeful tone of her famous inaugural poem...to mine pandemic-induced grief and reflection. There is anger, confusion, and sadness in these poems, but there is also a great deal of history and documentation ... Given the politicized nature of Critical Race Theory discourse fueled in no small part by the continued visibility of The 1619 Project, Gorman’s section 'Atonement' reads as an innovative, understated, and subversive text ... Between musings and observations, Gorman’s finely attuned attention to the manifestations of our fear, our longing, our loss of so much but particularly, our control, also reminds us of her role—and that of poetry—in recovery, healing, moving on ... The liberating force of the stories these poems tell about our resilience and survival showcases a powerful griot for our times.
If Gorman’s performance [at the inauguration] was widely perceived as existing in one mode—an exuberant call to action and, per the assignment, a meditation on unity—its effect on the page is more subtle, and strewn throughout with subversive detonations ... The poet and professor Stephanie Burt has written that 'there is no one purpose to all poetry; there are only poems, lots of them, memorable and ridiculous and calm and volatile and heartbreaking and fascinating poems.' Gorman packs all of the above into one volume. There are focused and pithy poems. There are poems arranged in playfully heretical formats...a poem in the shape of a face mask, a poem in the form of a text exchange. There is reverence and effervescence; gravity and impishness, strong poems and weak poems ... The weak poems suffer from a reliance on dusty imagery ... An idiosyncrasy of the book is Gorman’s fondness for didactic digressions ... When these work, it feels as though Gorman is picking shiny apples of knowledge and presenting the best specimens in a basket for the reader’s enjoyment. When they don’t work...they feel like excruciating intrusions ... I don’t get the sense that 'digestibility' is high on the poet’s list of writerly priorities, and I found the variation in Call Us What We Carry to be mostly stimulating rather than discombobulating—an act of both courage and mischief. Why not experiment, mess around a little ... Yeats said we produce rhetoric out of the quarrel with others and poetry out of the quarrel with ourselves. Gorman makes the case—often convincingly
—that poetry may come from both.
... a powerful collection of poems that discuss identity, grief and nature in times of uncertainty ... Throughout the book, Gorman delicately delivers the sentiment, struggles and grief faced in a post-pandemic and racially unjust society. Her descriptions of struggle are emotive and tender and her words are, at times, self-aware. Gorman often examines language, questioning the meaning of certain words, their uses and her relation to them. She also questions grammar, exploring how we carry language, and are shaped by our understanding of words ... Amanda Gorman’s debut proves that she is poetry’s brightest young thing.
I found it difficult, reading Call Us What We Carry, to separate the poetry from the remembered image of that inauguration recital. Fending for themselves on the page, some of the poems appear incomplete – like unaccompanied minors, waiting for their guardian’s return. They ask to be read aloud. The collection is ardent, committed but uneven. Gorman’s hallmark is also, at times, her weakness: she cannot resist words that echo one another ... When she pulls it off, it is musical: there is a sense of exalted wordplay – sounds as soulmates. But as often, the echo is empty and does not deliver enough meaning ... Gorman makes a virtue of telling rather than showing. The poems are emotionally primed and have an aphoristic momentum. And while some images do not quite come off, the emotion always does and one is grateful for her uncompromising take on the tragedy of the pandemic and the wrongness of living apart ... Elsewhere, poems such as 'Fury & Faith' are powerful reiterations of black lives mattering, peaceful rallying cries. She makes sure you know where she is coming from ... She is, throughout, playfully experimental.
Gorman’s words read like that of Lady Liberty in a pointed argument with white supremacy or of the ultimate public defender trying to release us from captivity ... Gorman is formidable when she draws parallels between the past and our present concerns ... But Gorman is not Baldwin or Claudia Rankine ... She is a Gen Z Angelino who brings the fresh self-awareness and frankness of youth to these pages with a prosody that is as playful as it is stern ... There is at times a sloppiness unbecoming such a gifted and precise writer ... But perfection is not required. Her poetry insists that not just she but an entire country is capable of growing itself to a place of glory, like Tupac’s rose in concrete. Her emergence in this very moment is the instantiation of our ability to press on.
Alliterative insights and free-versed inquiry catalyze Gorman’s performative poetics on the page. Her third publication, Gorman’s scholarly sensibility illuminates her quest for social reparations and cultural history, unpacking their terrains through revisionism and erasure that imagine alternative renderings of past narratives ... Gorman analyzes the amalgamation of microbial, social and environmental catastrophe that conjoined during the past two years. She projects them beyond the current moment, conceiving of their ties as the liminal space of our progress ... Ultimately, these poems reflect the abstractions of knowledge, memory, forgiveness and communion that forge our nation ... Gorman’s commitment to our precarious moment accounts for their tone as found objects. At times they are ruminative relics that risk repetition, but it is thanks to Gorman’s linguistic versatility that keeps the reader along: Unearthing strains of syntax as they pertain to the American psyche or deconstructing a word’s varying context ... At her best, Gorman stewards this intimate moment of change with visual viscera ... Embodying the idiosyncrasies of renewal, Gorman carves out the imperfect instinct towards hope ... Between breath, light, water and soil, text messages and letters, and visual formations of ships, whales and flags, Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry is an inventive literary resurrection.
Call Us What We Carry, Gorman’s first full-length book, will not satiate any of her social media critics. Nor can I call it a great collection. The smorgasbord of styles she tries to put together work less as the book progresses (especially the various prose poems), and her commendable yearning to reach as many people as possible too often doesn’t rise above platitudes ... an uneven collection isn’t a bad one. When Gorman steps away from being a public voice and weaves a gift for lyric landscape with her internal thought process on being a young person in a country in peril, she not only is as good as any young poet in the country but shows the potential to be as good as the masters she calls on ... Amanda Gorman isn't there yet, but she’s on her way. If you can’t earn your critique, don’t hinder her.
Gorman expands and deepens her vision, gazing fearlessly at present circumstances and at the nation’s past. She imbues her work with timely, evocative language that shifts a reader’s perspective, explores hidden layers, and reveals wisdom and insight ... a rich, inventive collection ... Some of the most compelling poems deal with the losses and isolation that people have experienced throughout the pandemic ... As readers move through these pages, they will feel a constant, gentle prompting to discard narrow, limited thinking.
Poignant and searching ... Her signature wordplay is everywhere evident ... Many forms...give this collection impressive variety. Gorman’s thoughtfulness and activist spirit shine through on every page.
Poems for teenagers and adults that cast a scrutinizing eye on United States history and current events while being hopeful about the future ... Gorman delivers subtle turns of phrase alongside playful yet purposeful punning. The book tackles grief without succumbing to melancholy ... Occasionally it reads as monotonous or prosaic. But variation exists in the diversity of concrete or visual poems ... It’s not a book to be read in one sitting but to be savored and revisited ... 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 ... An inspired anthem for the next generation—a remarkable poetry debut.