NPR poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander's latest community poem started with a request to consider what follows after the words "I dream a world."



I am here with Kwame Alexander, MORNING EDITION's poet in residence. Kwame, I am so happy to talk to you. And before we talk, I have two words I want to say - Amanda Gorman.


MARTIN: (Laughter) I have been waiting to talk to you about Amanda Gorman. That poem that she performed at the inauguration, it was so joyous and truthful and so necessary.

ALEXANDER: All the feels, Rachel. I mean, talk about inspiring your life. Her poem was a cool drink of water or, as Nikki Giovanni would have said, cotton candy on a rainy day...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

ALEXANDER: ...Refreshing and just sweet.


ALEXANDER: As a poet, you know, I marveled at her wordplay, the internal rhyme. But more than all the technical wizardry on display was the heart love, the honesty, the hope.

MARTIN: Yeah. I mean, you always talked about how poetry helps us be more human. And I think we all saw that. We all felt it through her. We felt the power in her and in her words.

ALEXANDER: Well, you know what else was powerful, Rachel? All of these submissions we got for the I dream a world poetry callout. Wow.

MARTIN: Yeah. We had to close the submissions, actually, because we had more than 2,500 of them in less than three days.

ALEXANDER: Yep. But don't fear, listeners. You can post your poems on our Facebook page. Join our community at NPR Poetry with Kwame Alexander on Facebook.

MARTIN: All right. So Kwame, you did your thing. You compiled a community poem from these submissions, which ranged from first graders - we had first graders writing poems - to college professors and grandparents.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. And I got a little treat. I included a few words from Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem. I felt so much joy. And her words sort of resonated with what we're talking about, about how we need to keep our arms open, like, how we all are in need of a hug right now. So listen out for those words.

MARTIN: All right. You want to do it?

ALEXANDER: (Reading) I dream a world that sounds like a gentle good morning, like sleep tight at the end of the day, like Ella scatting, a world filled with a universal song, a hallelujah of joyous rejoicing in this moment's gift of life.

MARTIN: (Reading) I dream a world in color, where nature's artist takes the lead - clear, blue oceans and vibrant reefs and all creatures thrive with what they need.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Where peace floats from every direction, where it's not too late to change the people who hate, where race and color are not what the scales weigh, where the root of all evil is pulled up and the rain pours down until the ground swells with fertile soil - where potential is the currency of the day and you can be able to see what's next without being scared.

MARTIN: (Reading) I dream of that world, the one that lifts the silenced souls from shackles, where vision cannot be smothered beneath my eyes, beyond my reach, where what lies waiting aches to teach.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) I dream a world where a bridge is arching over troubled waters, built on a foundation of truth, where children grow up learning only one kind of division, the long kind - a world where sharing kindness is commonplace, where deeds are done with heart and zest, where doing right should be the quest.

MARTIN: (Reading) I dream a world where every day is Earth Day and pollution is not a thing, where we take care of the ocean and the world, where masks are only for the ball that celebrates a new beginning for us all.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Where we can see every person smile, where the coronavirus goes away so we can go to school, where people can hug their family and friends whenever they want, where all have the luxury simply to sit and build a puzzle. I dream of seeing foxes walking in a field. I would like to walk with them. That is my wish.

MARTIN: (Reading) I dream a world where native fish fly free, unfettered many miles to reach the sea, and those whose sacred presence on our shores predates the ships galore that brought conquerors, colonists and slaves in chains, where the monarch butterflies are the only concern we have about migration. I hunger for that world, a safe world for children whose skin is darker than mine, a beautiful sunrise after the night, equity, kindness, color and light for my daughters' daughters, for my sons' sons.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) I dream of a world where the problems are the problem, not the people debating them, where we lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms, where we know each other's joys and sorrows all these days and all the morrows - where the news brings a smile.

MARTIN: (Reading) I dream a world straight - crooked paths are only for walking - a world drunk with self-esteem, fearless and ready, a world where you hold onto your dreams. And I'll hold the door - pass right through, because the world is yours.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) I dream a world where that world is not a dream, but awake, vigilant - community gardens on every corner. No more social media advertisements for body armor, people with mental health issues accepted as whole - a mosaic of humans not separated by color, opinion, belief.

MARTIN: (Reading) Rusted cages, empty and unlocked, doors swung open, guards long since gone home - where facts matter. A world as simple as a poem written in pencil, full of mistakes and erasures on the relentless path to its honest truth.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Where, as soldiers of democracy nurturing us, teachers are publicly thanked for their service. I dream of a world transparent, walls and floors built of some durable crystalline material where we know which student is really watching a TikTok video when we leave the room for a moment.

MARTIN: (Reading) I dream a world where there is quiet, enough to hear each other - the young care for the old and the Earth is cared for by all.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Where nations' boundaries blur by a bridge of millions of hands reaching across to embrace in oneness, where people are as free as the poet's meter and inclusion is real, not mandated by law, but embraced with zeal, where I can be Black...

MARTIN: (Reading) ...And woman and be safe. I dream a world where white folks see all non-white folks in the land of the free as true heirs to the founders' liberty from oppression and powerful tyranny.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) I dream the world King dreamed for me, that the paved gold that America promises prospers, where the playing field is level, the same for anyone willing and able, where we anchor to hope and all it brings.

MARTIN: (Reading) Do you not see it is time to finish what has begun - a world that we want to live in.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Such is a world I dream of.

MARTIN: Kwame Alexander, MORNING EDITION's poet in residence. He's the author of "The Undefeated" and the new poetry collection "Light For The World To See: A Thousand Words On Race And Hope." Kwame, that was a beautiful poem. Thank you to you. Thank you to all our listeners, all of our writers who contributed.

ALEXANDER: Stay strong, Rachel.