Inaugural Poetry DiscoveriesMichael M. Guevara
Like lots of others, I didn’t discover Amanda Gorman until she graced the country with, well, her grace, her presence, and her poetry at the inauguration ceremony of President Biden.
And if you’ve yet to discover her, that’s okay too because it’s not really when you discover Amanda Gorman and her poetry but that you discover Amanda Gorman and her poetry.
In her collection Call Us What We Carry: Poems, Gorman taps into the sentiments, the emotions, the angst of what we have all lived through during the last few years. You feel this in the first lines of her poem “America”:
A house divided cannot stand. To be divided, then, is to be devastated.
The fact of the matter is that our country seldom counts all who
Matter. This is why red seeps from our flag. (154)
And you can understand how much of the last few years have shaped her writing in the poem “Memorial”:
In ancient Greece, the Muses, the dainty-footed daughters
of Memory, were thought to inspire artists. It isn’t knowing
but remembering, that makes us create. This would explain
why so much great art arises from trauma, nostalgia, or
Still, Call Us What We Carry: Poems is also a message of hope and recovery. It is a vision of what life can be regardless of what life has been. Gorman’s call to move forward jumps off the page in her poem “Every Day We Are Learning”:
Every day we are learning
How to live with essence, not ease.
How to move with haste, never hate.
How to leave this pain that is beyond us
Behind us. (52)
Sales of Gorman’s books soared after the country came to know her from the inauguration where she, at 22, was the youngest poet to ever speak at a presidential inauguration. Call Us What We Carry: Poems only burnishes what so many of us discovered that cold day in January. It is an explosion of poetry bona fides. From concrete poetry, to verse, to pages with reverse printing, text boxes, and artistic line breaks, this collection of poetry has something to make you glad you too have discovered Amanda Gorman.
Have students emulate the poetry of Amanda Gorman using their text messages as inspiration. Download the lesson below!
Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.