Poetry Mix Tape #16: Giving Thanks

When I first realized that I needed to read more poetry to write better poetry (duh – shouldn’t I have known that right away?), my supportive husband began seeking out signed first editions for me. He didn’t know any names of poets beyond what the canon had provided him in school, so he would often buy blindly. One of the treasures he unearthed was a set of W.S. Merwin’s books. I hadn’t read Merwin until then and since have devoured many of his books. I find his versatility admirable. Below is one my favorite poems by Merwin:

Thanks

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions.

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

***

Merwin here gives us our everyday activities, our foibles, our tragedies, our crimes against one another and against nature, and yet the poem is hopeful. The poem could be called spiritual, political, or autobiographical. It speaks to different readers in different ways. And it is its very simplicity that makes the poem work on so many levels.

If you want to write:

1.  Try to keep your language simple and uncluttered in a poem about a common utterance. (You could use Merwin’s “thanks” or “no problem” or “whatever.”)

OR

2. Write a poem that gives thanks in a non-traditional way.

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7 thoughts on “Poetry Mix Tape #16: Giving Thanks

  1. Pingback: April 14 | Stoney Moss

    • Wonderful draft, as usual. I wonder if you’d post sometime about the amount of time it takes you to work through these prompts. If these are rough drafts that you post, then there is no hope for the rest of us. 🙂

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