‘There’s No Power Like Home‘ uses images connected to mask-wearing, smiling with one’s eyes, and the frustration with staying at home all the time. This poem was published in 2021 in Amanda Gorman’s collection, Call Us What We Carry. It, like other poems in the collection, explores the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and takes a hopeful tone regarding what can come from so much loss. This piece focuses primarily on mask-wearing and is in the first part of Call Us What We Carry, Requiem.
Explore There’s No Power Like Home
‘There’s No Power Like Home’ by Amanda Gorman is a thoughtful poem inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions.
The poem focuses primarily on mask-wearing and how it changes what one sees in another person. It also expresses the frustration with the “gauze” around one’s face. Gorman skillfully compares the mouth it covers to a gaping wound, something that’s dangerous and should, for the benefit of others, be contained. As the poem progresses, she explores the ways that people show emotion with only their eyes and the fragility of those expressions.
We were sick of home,
The great gape of our mouth.
In the first lines of ‘There’s No Power Like Home,’ the poet begins by describing “home” and “we” were sick of it. The use of the word “we” here suggests common experience. This poem is not told from the perspective of one person but with consideration for a group’s experience.
Rather than feeling “homesick” and wanting to go home, “we” were “sick of home.” Gorman separates “home” from “sick” to show this difference.
The reasoning behind this becomes clear in the next lines. The speaker is referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and how, due to restrictions of movements, people were stuck at home. The third line refers to a “mask,” making this connection very clear.
It’s here that the speaker also alludes to what’s going to become the most important idea at the end of the poem. The speaker talks about how annoyed by the masks “we” were and how we “stepped into our home” and tore them off, “gasping, tear-ing” them off like a “bandage.”
It was a wrap across one’s mouth, like a bandage that contained something. In this case, the mouth. This is a great example of imagery and how the poet manages to allude to the dangers inherent in having one’s mouth exposed and spreading the pandemic further.
Even faceless, a smile can still
The lilt of a beloved’s joke.
The next lines speak about how people began interpreting facial expressions just through the eyes. It’s possible to read one as it scales up “our cheeks.” This is an idea that many people are going to be familiar with.
The poet uses a simile to compare the wrinkles around one’s eyes to the crinkles in “rice paper.” This suggests that the happiness inherent in the expression is tentative, that it could fail or fall apart at any moment.
She goes on, bringing in more images, such as that of a howling dog and a squirrel coming closer than usual. These are things that should bring a smile to one’s face but are also as delicate. They can fall apart without warning.
Our mask is no veil, but a view.
The final two lines of the poem can be considered an unrhymed couplet. They go together, making a self-contained statement. The speaker concludes the poem by saying that the mask one wears is “a view.” The final line notes, without a question mark (suggesting a rhetorical question), that we are what we “see in another.” The mask presents a boundary to this but also an opportunity to see something different in those around you, that which they can show with their eyes and with their willingness to wear the mask in the first place.
Structure and Form
‘There’s No Power Like Home’ by Amanda Gorman is a twenty-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The poem is written in free verse. This means that the lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. Despite this, Gorman does make use of several different examples of rhyme. For example, the repetition of home in the first lines and the rhyme between “ear” and “year” in the next lines.
Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines thee and four.
- Allusion: occurs when the poet references something that is outside the scope of the poem. For example, Gorman alludes to the COVID-19 pandemic through her references to staying at home and wearing a mask.
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. These should trigger the reader’s senses. For example, “We found ourselves gasping, tear- / ing it off like a bandage,
The central theme is shared human experience. The speaker uses third-person pronouns to allude to this shared experience while references specific details about the pandemic.
The purpose of this poem is to share the experiences of everyday people who struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes being stuck at home and masked, unable to see one another’s faces and connect in a basic human way.
The meaning of this piece is that despite the mask requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that it’s still possible to see other people and express happiness at the smallest moments. She also emphasizes the delicacy of this happiness.
The speaker addresses the content of the poem from a third-person perspective. They understand the experiences of a group of people, all those who went through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also consider reading some other Amanda Gorman poems. For example:
- ‘The Hill We Climb’ – a moving depiction of the United States as it was on the cusp of President Biden’s inauguration in 2021.
- ‘In This Place (An American Lyric)’ – a moving poem about American life and the tragedies, acts of bravery, and hope that shape the nation.
- ‘Chorus of the Captains’ – an occasional poem written for and performed at the 52nd Super Bowl. It describes the work of three American heroes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other related poems include:
- ‘My Sister is Not a Statistic’ by Dorothy Duffy – a heart-wrenching poem about the author’s sister who died from COVID-19 on April 4, 2020.
- ‘Home is so Sad’ by Philip Larkin – a thoughtful poem about the importance of home. The poet explores what happens to a home when people leave it.