Amanda Gorman’s Debut Poetry Collection “Call Us What We Carry” Inspires Her WriteGirls Colleagues
that of Amanda Gorman The debut poetry collection “Call Us What We Carry” (Viking) has an unexpected tone as it encapsulates the collective grief, anger and sadness felt at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “Did will this leave us bitter? Or better ? Gorman writes. “Grieve. Then choose.”
Los Angeles native’s book, austere compared to uplifting inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” strongly focuses on the lasting mental toll of the pandemic and what has been lost individually and collectively, and also serves as a history lesson.
But it wouldn’t be Gorman if even that didn’t leave us feeling hopeful too.
“Call Us What We Carry” imagines a day when no one has to “start, love or end, alone”. Still being in the midst of a global pandemic makes reading the 23 year old’s poetry collection a bit too much on the nose, but even then it reminds us that “what we wear means we survive … where we once were.” alone, now we are outside of ourselves. “
Gorman has come a long way from her beginnings as a mentee in the creative writing program WriteGirl, before becoming the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. “Call Us What We Carry” is stimulating and lyrical. His poetry takes readers back to the time of their forties, in that solitude, and it makes us reflect on the road traveled and the road we still have to travel.
“There is power in being robbed and always choosing to dance,” she writes.
“Call Us What We Carry” is divided into different parts, including Earth Eyes; Memory ; What a piece of wreckage is man; Atonement; and Fury & Faith. Throughout, she details the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, the flu epidemic of 1918, the world wars, the slave trade and segregation. And she brings it all back to the present and the pandemic, reminding readers that there is a lot to learn (or a lot that hasn’t been learned) from this country’s past responses to global disasters.
“The Hill We Climb”, an original poem spoken by Gorman during the inauguration of President Joe Biden, paints the picture of a broken nation and calls for healing and unity, alluding to the two pro-Trump rally weeks before she shows up at this desk.
“Hearing him say those kinds of inspirational words, but also recognizing his place in this really complicated system” was meaningful and forced people to remember a “story of America that few people want to remember. “. writer Sofia Aguilar USA TODAY said.
Seeing Gorman reach the level of success she has and touching millions of people with her words makes Aguilar “hopeful.”
Aguilar, like Gorman, is an elder Write Girl mentee. The two didn’t cross paths during their mentorship, but WriteGirl, an Los Angeles-based creative writing and mentoring organization, has helped them find their voice and place in the literary arts.
The nonprofit, founded by Keren Taylor in 2001, connects more than 500 young girls each year with other writers to help them hone their writing skills across all genres. Each year, they also produce dozens of workshops, roundtables and events to help young girls in disadvantaged neighborhoods find their creative spark.
Author of “Hôtel du bout du monde”, Dinah Berland served as WriteGirl’s mentor to Gorman as she attended School of new roads, a private high school in Santa Monica, California. Berland recalls the first time she heard Gorman recite a poem and said that she knew immediately that Gorman was “very talented”.
“There is no doubt in my mind that she is a role model for many young people,” says Berland. “The fact that she is totally committed to opening up possibilities for social change through literature and through her poetry in particular… anyone committed to these ideas can make a difference through poetry.”
Allison Deegan, associate director at WriteGirl, agrees. Deegan says Gorman’s poetry is “a force for good in the world.”
Before Gorman made history in 2017, when she became America’s first Young Poet Laureate in Los Angeles, Deegan guided Gorman through the college application process (she graduate with distinction from Harvard University in 2020).
Deegan thinks back to the first day Gorman walked into WriteGirl.
“She was so small,” Deegan says. “We wondered if we’ll ever hear her speak, and then we found out that she was having trouble speaking and I said, ‘Let’s take it easy and let her get some self-confidence.'”
When the day came, standing in front of people to share his work became “natural” for Gorman.
“Even at first his words were powerful,” Deegan says, adding that even in his early days, Gorman was not afraid to branch out into different genres and styles of writing, including fiction, songwriting, l scriptwriting and journalism.
Deegan, a founding member of WriteGirl, says that when she sees Gorman in the spotlight, she feels like “I’m seeing all my girls.”
“Gorman is a light, a beacon for all of our daughters,” adds Deegan.
When Gorman presented “The Hill We Climb” on the opening day, WriteGirl hosted an online monitoring party for volunteers, alumni, and current mentees to watch his performance.
Co-founder of Infinite Bee Edition and former mentee Kai Adia said it was “a really powerful time for everyone, but especially for young writers and budding poets.”
For Adia, poetry is a “beautiful space for healing and expression,” and Gorman’s “Call Us What We Carry” allows her readers to heal and express themselves, no matter how complex or troubled the feelings are.
“Knowing that you can heal when you read someone else’s work is amazing,” Adia says. “That’s kind of what we need right now.”
Adia, who was also born and raised in Los Angeles, feels a strong connection to Gorman.
“I hope other WriteGirls like me can see that we come from the same type of bedrock, the same soil,” she says. “It means we can all germinate and be these beautiful seeds and become these amazing flourishing beings also because we come from the same foundation as Amanda.”
If you would like to join WriteGirl as a mentee, mentor, or volunteer, go here. To donate to the association, go here. WriteGirl anthologies, written by mentees and mentors, are also available for purchase here.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amanda Gorman’s ‘Call Us What We Carry’ Inspires Her WriteGirls Colleagues