On Some Of Amanda Gorman’s Critics Needing Their Fix.
Jay Sizemore’s article on Amanda Gorman was pleasant on its surface and about as morally responsible as an OJ Simpson take on the Bills offense, given his sickening history with women( receipts below). Critics who take him at face value without taking it into account do nothing but contribute to the nightmare of poetry history.
First, let’s get the aesthetics out of the way. On the page, I like the inaugural poem overall, but she’s got work to do. ( we all have work to do). Gorman has said Gwendolyn Brooks and Maya Angelou are her main influence, and the off rhymes and the slant rimes over the elongated sentences read like the equivalent of a 90’s neo-soul artist copying Stevie Wonder: she has the structure but not the function quite yet. The poem is a noble attempt to fuse the organic form compositions that have made African American free verse, and Brooks’ and Margaret Walker’s breathtaking ear for form and lyric. No one can pull that off at 22, Brooks and Walker themselves couldn’t pull that off at 22, they needed years of learning their craft to get there. And for all that, the poem doesn’t fail for me on the account of it’s best lines and the sweep of his attempt. Also, If you know a black person other than your maid or your favorite rapper( Which is a lot less people than you think.), you know that joy black folk had over her performance had as much to do with the moment-capturing the “this is my country too” ethos of the black Biden voter and affirming the best of the human spirit two weeks after we saw the worst of it- than I did with the poem. And if you weren’t swept up by that, you don’t have a soul.
And if you think Jay Sizemore, who has a know and admitted record for menacing women on an off the page, is the right person to have a take on Amanda Gorman, you don’t want to just stop at criticizing the poem. You feel that isn’t a white man alive that isn’t above taking down a black woman.
How much darkness is worth it? Do white poets need to feel good about taking down a sister so much that they have taken to heart a man like this? Is this worth your soul?