Poetry is its Own Prayer: The Vision of Amanda Gorman, Part I
Robin B. Zeiger, Ph.D.
Poetry is its own prayer, the closest words come to will.
Amanda Gorman, Call us What We Carry, 2021.
There are those people we have never met, yet somehow, they “befriend” and influence us. There are some people we have never met, and we wish for the moment.
Amanda Gorman, the youngest presidential inaugural poet is one of those special people that I hope to someday meet. I was introduced to her for the first time when she recited, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration. Inspired, energized, and enamored, I waited for what was next.
Ms. Gorman’s poems give testimony to the shipwrecked moments in our current history. She explores COVID, pandemics, language, and identity, both acknowledging the deep suffering and the necessity of hope.
I find myself relating to her as a modern-day philosopher. Below I share some “teasers” of her words that touched me the most. I want to encourage my readers to discover her poetry for its testimony, depth and richness. The poems are a call to inner and outer dialogue.
A poem & how it runs
Through the body before leaving
Us something slightly more than we were.
According to legend.
There are two wolves inside us:
One half that must be fought
& one that must be fed.
Quoted from “Displacement” pp. 148–150
“At First,” a poetic piece crafted like a modern-day SMS states:
March shuddered into a year,
Sloshing with millions of lonely.
An overcrowded solitude.
We begin to lose words
As trees forget their leaves in fall.
I read Amanda’s words and found myself reflecting on my experiences as a therapist. How often over the past two years have we all found ourselves wordless, masked, faceless, and bereft of a way to communicate our deepest pain and fears?
Amanda uses the symbolism of a ship as container and carrier of pain and tradition. Hence the title and cover of the book. There is the ship wrecked, the ship that carries, and the ship that contains. Then there is the message to be found in the bottle.
This book is a message in a bottle.
This book is a letter.
& the poet, the preserver
Of ghosts and gains.
Our demons and our dreams,
Our haunts & hopes.
Quoted from, “Ship’s Manifest” pp.1- 2
As I read the words of this poet, I was moved by the painful, but necessary images. We are all haunted by memories, nightmares, and huge losses. It is important to acknowledge the pain.
I found myself “bleeding from the words found within images from “In the Deep.”
The jobs never coming back,
The mothers’ primal screams,
Our children’s minds shuttered from school,
The funerals without families,
Weddings in waiting,
The births in isolation.
Let no one again
Have to begin, love or end alone.
We found the stubborn devotion to say:
Where we can we shall hope.
Our wounds, too, are our windows.
Through them we watch the world.
Perhaps Ms. Gorman’s most powerful and personal words of hope are found in her inaugural address:
We, the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
Descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,
Can dream of becoming president,
Only to find herself reciting for one.
Quoted from, “The Hill We Climb” (pp. 206–211).
P.S. I am sure there is more to come from Ms. Gorman. And I know I must continue to allow the poems to touch me. Look for Part II.
Robin B. Zeiger is a practicing Jungian psychoanalyst and a free-lance writer.
She is a member of the:
International Association of Analytical Psychology and the Israel Institute of Jungian Psychology. She can be reached at email@example.com.